December 6, 2023
Babbo Natale is none other than Santa Claus to Italian children. But his real name is San Nicola Pastara di Licia, or Saint Nicholas. He was born in Turkey (3rd century AD) and became the bishop of Myra in Asia Minor.
His association with gift-giving has many stories and a common one surrounds the legend of the three daughters of a poor man who became prostitutes to have enough food to eat and clothes to wear. Upon hearing this, San Nicola came to their house three times, and each time tossed a bag of gold coins through the window, providing an adequate dowry for each of the daughters to enter into an honorable marriage. From this legend, it is said, comes the modern-day Babbo Natale (Father Christmas), Saint Nicholas, or Santa Claus that children revere worldwide.
The real veneration of San Nicola dates as far back as 1087 when his bones were stolen from Myra by sailors from Bari who were rescued in a horrific sea storm due to the intercession of the saint.
Since then his feast day is celebrated on December 6, which also signals the start of the holiday baking season. Like American children, Italian children like to receive treats from San Nicola and in the past, left their shoes by their bed or on windowsills in hopes that the saint would leave torrone, coins, and oranges!
Biscotti are the perfect gift for Santa Claus and your holiday table and the best part is that from one basic dough, an array of different biscotti can be made ahead of time without much effort. From one dough you can make almond biscotti, mixed dried fruit biscotti, white chocolate chunk, and chocolate and candied orange peel biscotti. But don’t stop there, come up with your own special ingredients to add to the basic dough and have a stress-free biscotti baking good time.
Biscotti make great gifts. To make them extra special give them in clear cellophane bags tied with Christmas ribbon, or arrange them in gift boxes. And don’t forget to leave a plate of biscotti for Babbo Natale.