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Italian Lesson – November


Whether your family chooses to keep the family gatherings small or large, this lesson will teach how to add an Italian flair to your Thanksgiving.

Though the lesson is not Italian in theme, it begins by reflecting on the Italian curiosity about this American holiday and its related traditions.  Thanksgiving, unlike Halloween, has no historical or cultural significance  in Italy.  It is unlikely that it will ever be assimilated into Italian culture as has Halloween, which in Italian was at one time known only as La Vigilia di Ognisanto,  The Eve of All Saint’s Day. However, if one visits family or friends in Italy at this time of year, they are often bombarded with questions about this very American holiday, which in Italian is known as Il Giorno di Ringraziamento, La Festa di Ringraziamento, or jokingly “La Festa del Tacchino,” which means the Turkey’s Feast Day. However, in translation, that reference of Turkey’s Feast Day seems like an oxymoron. Now, back to the point of the lesson. Here in America to Italianize the Thanksgiving celebration around the table Italian Americans feast on lasagna, Italian escarole soup, and if there is room left, turkey.

Continuing further with the main theme of the lesson. In order to satisfy a native Italian’s curiosity and for those wishing to enrich their Italian language skills, we’ve prepared a list of words and expressions that will help you explain a little about the history of the holiday. Of course, as with all Italian subjects, we will cover the foods associated with this fall feast. Then, if you might happen be in Italy during this holiday period, you can explain the traditional foods to Italians.  Finally, if you have never Italianized your Thanksgiving with seasonal Italian greetings here at home, then try using some of this lesson’s greetings to start a new “Giorno di Ringraziamento” tradition at your table this year.


Let’s begin with some holiday greetings:

Buona Festa (with this one you can never go wrong)                   Happy Holiday

Felice Giorno di Ringraziamento                                                  Happy Thanksgiving

Felice Giorno del Tacchino                                                           Happy Turkey Day

Other topical terms:

Inghilterra                                                                                           England

Pellegrino                                                                                            Pilgrim

Nave                                                                                                     Ship

Indiano o Pellerossa                                                                       Native American

Tacchino                                                                                              Turkey

Prosciutto cotto*                                                                               Ham

Patata americana**                                                                          Sweet potato

Purè di patate                                                                                    Mashed potatoes

Piselli                                                                                                   Peas

Mais                                                                                                     Corn

Farcito                                                                                                 Stuffing

(Gelatina di) Mirtilli rossi***                                                          Cranberries (sauce)

Crostata di zucca                                                                               Pumpkin pie

Sidro                                                                                                    Cider


Though not a holiday in Italy, we found a poem dedicated to the day.

(Rough Translation)

La Festa del Tacchino                                                  Turkey Day


Dall’Inghilterra son andati,                         From England they departed,

I pelligrini perseguitati                               Pilgrims persecuted far too long,

A “Plymouth Rock” son arrivati,              They arrived at Plymouth Rock,

Amici Indiani han trovati.                          New Indian friends they did find.


Il benvenuto era con tutto il cuore,             They were welcomed with open hearts,

Gli indiani li han aiutati con fervore,          They toiled together to raise a crop,

Dopo d’una raccolta strepitosa,                   Their harvest was a big success,

Han fatto una festa meravigliosa.                They feasted on food that was the best.


In questo giorno come Americani,               On this day as Americans,

Ricordiamo i pellegrini e gl’indiani,             We remember these two best friends,

E` “La Festa del Tacchino,”                         It is our “Turkey Day,”

Brindiamola col buon vino.                         Let’s toast it with fine wine.


Buona Festa a tutti.  


This month’s falso amico

This month’s falso amico is “patente,” which in Italian does not mean patent. It means driver’s license. Patent in Italian is brevetto.

This month’s proverb

This month’s proverb is in Genovese from the region of Liguria.

Genovese: ‘Na bonn-a repûtassion a vä ciû de ûn milion.
Italiano: Una buona reputazione vale più di un milione.

English: A good reputation is worth more than a million.


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