IT IS finally December and suddenly it really, truly feels like Christmas is upon us.

Christmas is a time of year where many different traditions are observed all over the world. Here in the UK, we spend our Christmas morning opening presents – made by elves, delivered by Santa Claus and his reindeer – before tucking into a dinner of turkey, followed by Christmas pudding (traditionally made five weeks before Christmas) for dessert.

Then we just generally spend our days chilling out, watching TV and playing games with our families.

Being a Christian holiday, Christmas is a big deal in Italy, where the majority of the population is Catholic.

Just like here in the UK, Christmas is a time to spend with your family, eating, drinking and being merry. That being said, Christmas traditions are quite different in Italy.

For a start, traditionally, Santa Claus does not deliver presents at Christmas time in Italy.

In fact, if you visit Bari in the south of Italy, you can visit the tomb of St Nicholas, where the original St Nick’s remains were laid to rest in a crypt under the Basilica di San Nicola – which might be the reason why so many Italians are non-believers.

So, instead of opening up presents from Santa Claus on Christmas morning, Italians open gifts from La Befana, an old woman, who gives children presents on Epiphany Eve (the night of January 5).

A Santa Claus type figure, Babbo Natale, is starting to increase in popularity in Italy, although he is still nowhere near as popular as La Befana.

Italians eat differently at Christmas time too.

Instead of tucking into turkey and all the trimmings, Italians prefer to eat fish dishes. This is because, on holy days, Catholics are not supposed to eat meat, or any other animal products.

As for sweet dishes, Italians do not eat Christmas pudding cooked with a coin inside, they prefer things like panettone, which is more of a sweet bread than a cake, and while it can be served as a dessert it is most often eaten for breakfast during the festive period.

If there is one thing everyone loves at Christmas time, it is a biscuit, and in Italy there are many amazing different types biscuits. This month I’ll be sharing a festive pistachio and cranberry biscotti recipe with you.

What we know as biscotti in the UK, Italians usually call cantucci, because in Italy biscotti is more of a general term for biscuits.

Biscotti can be traced back to Roman times, although they typically were not made to simply be enjoyed. Instead they were made for travellers because, due to their nature, they travelled well and lasted for a long time.

Thanks to their convenience, biscotti were a staple of the diet of the Roman Legions.

After the fall of the Roman Empire, biscotti made a comeback. The biscuits re-emerged in Tuscany, thanks to a baker who served them with sweet wine made locally.

Their dry, crunchy texture made them perfect for soaking up wine, and to this day, this is how many Italians enjoy their biscotti.

They are also delicious dunked in a cappuccino or a hot chocolate, which is the perfect remedy for a cold winter night.

Pistachios and cranberries will give your biscotti a wonderfully festive red and green colour, however, if you do not fancy this combination, you can simply swap out the nuts and dried fruits for flavours you would prefer.

Almonds, hazelnuts and peanuts are all delicious alternatives. You can even swap the dried fruit for chocolate chips, to make biscotti the kids are bound to enjoy too.