When Italians came to America in large numbers in the late 1800s and early 1900s, they brought their traditions and customs. Italians came to the U.S. during a time of unrest in southern Italy. Italians brought many traditions with them to America, including their cuisine and Christmas traditions.
Food and Cuisine
Perhaps the most famous of all Italian traditions brought to the U.S. is their diverse and delicious food cuisine. Italy is made up of 20 regions and each region has its own culinary traditions. For instance, northern Italian cuisine uses more butter, rice, corn, and cheeses for sauces, while southern Italy cuisine sauces use more olive oil and tomato sauce. The general rule with Italian cuisine is that if the food is grown in the area, it will be on the plate. Italian cuisine has affected American cuisine -- most traditional Italian dishes can be found at local restaurants. Italian-themed restaurants are also popular nationally and include places such as Carrabas and the Olive Garden.
The creche is one of the main features of the Italian Christmas celebration. The creche, or praesepe in Italian, is the traditional manger scene, except in Italy the baby Jesus is placed in the manger on Christmas Eve. In Italy, families make their creche as beautiful and elegant as they possibly can. Creches are also popular in the U.S., but Americans due not place the same importance on them as native Italians do.
The creche is not the only Italian influence on how U.S. residents celebrate Christmas. Italians brought their custom of carolling during their Christmas celebration to the United States. In Italy, shepherds go from house to house in the Italian countryside singing to the accompaniment of bagpipes.
Columbus Day started in 1929 in New York City when an Italian immigrant named Generoso Pope led a parade from East Harlem to Columbus Circle. The parade served as a celebration of Columbus coming to the New World and as a day to mark the achievements made by Italian Americans. The Columbus Day parade is the largest celebration of Italian American heritage worldwide, and since its formation has helped raise money for Italian immigrants living in America.