La Bomboniera

March 12, 2013 / Local Interest
Italy

Spring in Italy ushers in the season of mild temperatures, blooming flowers, and—inevitably–la ceremonia.

Italy is, of course, a traditionally Catholic country and the lifespan of the average Italian is marked by a series of religious rites (including one’s christening, first communion and confirmation, and marriage) and all the pomp and circumstance that surround these events. Though tough economic times have meant that many families have scaled back the elaborate and expensive celebratory meals and parties, one feature of la ceremonia remains sacrosanct: la bomboniera.

JordanAlmondsLa bomboniera is, roughly translated, a party favor. It is formed by two parts:

  1. i confetti (jordan almonds), always an odd number for luck (most often five to represent fertility, happiness, health, longevity, and wealth) , elaborately wrapped in tulle or satin, and adorned with coordinated  colors of ribbon, lace, and flowers.
  2. l’oggetto, a small gift to thank the recipient (almost always a guest at the event) for their participation.

bonboniere 005L’oggetto can span a vast range of tastes (and budgets). I have a numerous collection of these (most of them, to be honest, hidden away in closets), which run the gamut from truly horrific ceramic unicorns and silver-plated Virgin Mary statuettes to genuinely lovely hand-painted majolica vases and original pen-and-ink artwork.

Like all aspects of la cerimonia, la bomboniera reflects the taste and personality of the hosts. A very traditional family or couple tends toward the religious or purely decorative china or crystal bric-a-brac, where a more contemporary style can be reflected in an informal oggetto made by a local artisan or, for the even more hipster family, a donation made to Unicef or another charitable organization (the oggetto, in these cases, is a small certificate to that effect).

bomboniera 1

Though the younger generation of Italians make noises about la bomboniera (it tends to be a big expense, and the appalling aesthetics of many oggetti have become a running cultural joke), I have yet to attend a cerimonia which does not include la bomboniera. Some traditions, against the odds, are destined to live on.

Rebecca Winke

by Rebecca Winke

Owner of Brigolante Apartments, a restored 16th century stone farmhouse / guesthouse in the heart of Umbria near Assisi, and blogger of life in Umbria. For tips and insider information about visiting Umbria, download her Umbria Slow App and see her writings on her personal website!

15 Responses to “La Bomboniera”

  1. What an absolutely essential part of Italian life! Good for you to bring it to us. Ah, yes, the collection of bomboniere bric-a-brac can read like a diary through one’s life.

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  2. Mary Jane Cryan
    Mary Jane Cryan

    How right you are about the numerous bombonieri hidden in drawers.

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  3. Giuseppe Spano
    Giuseppe Spano

    Interesting note; As we have opportunity to observe a wedding procession (in Italia sud) the most always shower the bride with the coated almond as they walked the streets to the church. Also the Biscotti served to guest were adorned with cannolini ricci (cannelli ricci) a multi colored cinnamon candy. as a result my love of these treats grew from childhood and you will always find a large jar of both in my cucina and always with my biscotti
    thank you for keeping alive tradition

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  4. Anita Iaconangelo
    Anita Iaconangelo

    Great note, Rebecca, illustrating very well a custom which is so deeply ingrained in Italy. I remember the first time I got one of these many years ago, and as I was munching on my almonds, I asked “what am I supposed to do with this?” referring to the hideous “oggetto”. Everyone gasped….it was then I realized it was a keepsake to remind me of the glorious event. I, too have stashed them in hidden places, but lately some nice ceramic ones have come my way. Haven’t yet had the hipster experience in our family, but that sounds like a great idea!

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  5. RJ Moriconi

    In my youth, growing up as a first-generation American-Italian Catholic boy (who didn’t speak any English till first grade)in a small town in Nevada, home to 85% immigrant Italians from the Lucca/Florence area, I attended many wedding receptions at which handfuls of Jordan almonds were thrown by the couple over the heads of the crowd dancing to the accordions,following the big sit-down meal. We scurried among the active legs and feet of the dancers to collect many almonds, back and forth to nona and filling her big lap/skirt. What treats for at least a week. We children always wondered why nobody ever got hurt or complained of being hit on the head. All of that great exciting scooping of loose almonds gave way to frilly lace packages with just a few almonds inside — what a real shame, especially since the cost of the lace, ribbon, tag with couples’ names, etc. probably cost more than almonds thrown like confetti — much more traditional, authentic , and true to the meaning of bomboniera.

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  6. My favorite oggetti are the small silver chairs, each a tiny masterpiece…………Last seen in Noto, Sicilia.

    these would stay with any guest all of their life. Simple beauty, universal symbolism of their witnessing presence at the event, and their welocome in the family group.

    Let us not lose the charmng and heartful with the unicorns of late.

    Alla Prossima ! E

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  7. Evelyn Lanza

    At my wedding 45 years ago. We gave the jordan almonds, demitasse cups with saucers and boxes with homemade Italian coookies. This was my Italian-american wedding in NJ.

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  8. Spring!!! oh the joy of Easter and the mixed feelings that followed the few weeks after….Spring Cleaning!!!! washing every bomboniere ever received. I would joke with my mother about my First Communion bomboniere (1974) a small silk purse filled with Jordan almonds. As the first born my bomboniere was paltry compared to my sisters Michele and Giovanna’s (3rd and 4th of 4 girls) bomboniere.Let’s just say they were quite an upgrade! lol

    Giovanna is getting married this May and I am proud to say she has bestowed the honor of greeting their guests with the traditional gif of the bomboniere!

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  9. Sarah Weiner

    When we got married and Italian American friend who I met in an Italian language class INSISTED on making bomboniere for our wedding. Her mother brought the Jordan almonds back from Italy (apparently those purchased here in the US wouldn’t be good enough), and she attached them to liqueur glasses– representing the quantities of Italian liqueurs we had consumed together. It was one of the most wonderful and touching gifts we received and to this day when visiting friends who had attended our reception I’ll notice their little bomboniera glass from OUR wedding displayed in a cabinet or on a shelf in their house.

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  10. I love the tradition of the bomboniera. We observed this for my daughter’s wedding in Rome. It was fun!

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  11. Having a nice collection of good quality bomboniere from Italy, all on display. I really cannot relate to your post. Why not show the genuinely lovely and beautifully packaged ones as well? Italy has an old culture of high standards that trickles down to all, from nobility to proletariat. La bomboniera tradition is a costly and noble one, found only in the upper-classes of American society and others. The very thin Jordan almonds (confetti) purchased in Italy, are by far more costly, and superior in quality than the thick American made Jordan almonds.
    Also, to describe the silver-plated Virgin Mary statuette as “horrific” is inappropriate and insulting to Roman-Catholics.

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  12. Anne Robichaud

    Loved your note, Rebe’ and what memories of all those cerimonie!
    One time we received silver ones – anniversario d’argento…and even gold…for a golden one.
    Great note!

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  13. Rebecca,
    A late grazie, but I so enjoyed your note. Sweet memories of “Jordan Almonds”! I have a little l’oggetto that was my mothers…it always sat on her dresser and I never really learned the story. Now, at least I have an idea…
    Ancora, grazie,
    Victoria

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  14. Rita Fiore

    Ciao Rebecca
    I did enjoy your note and i agree with you.
    My children had their First Communion in Houston, Texas, and I bought bomboniere from Pelino USA. They were simple white daisies made of confetti (sugar coated almonds) AND my American friends went bananas. I told them that those daisies were supposed to be eaten, but they said they were not going to eat them, never ever!
    My bomboniere were too nice to be eaten!
    Ciao,
    Rita Fiore

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  15. I read this article and while ago and it touched me. My sister’s wedding was last August and I made all of her bomboniere by hand. Since many of my Italian relatives couldn’t make it to NY for the wedding, we sent them the bomboniere by mail and they were thrilled to have received this!! I love the idea of keeping the tradition alive :)

    Reply

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