Sparkling sunbursts from overhead icicle lights spread a golden glow throughout the chilly pedestrian alleys that lead to Piazza della Signoria in Florence. Shoppers in slim-fitted coats and boots crisscross the stone square with oversized bags from gift and pastry shops in tow. Store windows are elaborately dressed with nativity scenes, or presepi, with handmade figurines of baby Jesus, Mary and Joseph. The mood is set: It\u2019s Christmas in Tuscany.\r\n\r\nUnlike New York, Paris or even nearby Rome, Natale in Toscana has its own distinct affair. More than anywhere else, the focus here is to celebrate the holiday season around the dinner table with family and friends. Dishes passed on from generation to generation that bind families to their beautiful Tuscan territory are prepared, beginning December 24, or vigilia di natale, and ending on January 6, when the popular Befana celebration marks the Epiphany.\r\n\r\nWine Enthusiast Magazine gained a special sneak peek into the intimate holiday traditions of four prominent Tuscan wine families: the Antinoris, the Folonaris, the Frescobaldis and the Mazzeis. Each was asked to prepare a dish that represents a classic Tuscan Christmas menu option and pair it with an estate wine.\r\nThe Antinori Family\r\n\u201cChristmas in Tuscany embodies essential Renaissance ideals. Rome is already more Baroque with big piazza celebrations and more fanfare overall. The Tuscan personality, on the other hand, never wants to appear over the top; it values restraint, elegance and temperance.\u201d \u2013Allegra Antinori of Marchesi Antinori, a Tuscan wine dynasty that traces its enological roots to 1385.\r\nMontebianco\r\nThis delicious dessert is an Antinori family Christmas tradition.\r\n1\u00bd pounds fresh chestnuts, peeled\r\n2 cups of milk\r\n2/3 cups sugar\r\nPinch of salt\r\n1 tablespoon bitter chocolate powder\r\n1 tablespoon vanilla extract\r\n1\u00bd ounces rum\r\n\r\nFor the topping:\r\n2 cups fresh whipping cream\r\n2 tablespoons confectioners sugar\r\n1 tablespoon bitter chocolate powder\r\n2 tablespoons bitter chocolate, in chips or small cubes\r\n\u00bd cup Marrons glac\u00e9, cubed\r\n\r\nTo prepare the dessert: Using a sharp knife, cut an X into the outer shell of each chesnut, then let boil in hot water for 10 minutes. When boiled, remove the chestnuts and peel off the outer shell. Place peeled chestnuts in a small pot, add the milk, sugar and salt, and let cook for about 20 minutes. Once cooked, mash the mixture into a paste using a large potato ricer. Add the bitter chocolate powder, vanilla extract and rum, and mix until a compact dough is formed. Store in refrigerator for 2 hours.\r\n\r\nAfter 2 hours, run the chestnut dough through a pasta machine set on a spaghetti setting to form chestnut spaghetti. Place a small pile of the chestnut spaghetti in the middle of a large serving platter and cover the sides with the whipped cream (using a pastry bag or sac \u00e0 poche). Sprinkle the chestnuts with confectioners sugar, bitter chocolate powder, chocolate chips and Marrons glac\u00e9. Serves 4.\r\nThe Frescobaldis Family\r\n\u201cThe season lasts from Christmas Eve to the Befana and we normally travel or go skiing. The Befana is a very exciting time for the kids because tradition says that an old good witch will visit in the night. She leaves small gifts for the children that have behaved well. But if a child has not behaved, he or she receives black coals instead.\u201d \u2013Tiziana Frescobaldi of Marchesi de\u2019 Frescobaldi, a noble Tuscan family who has been making wine for more than 700 years.\r\nBrasato Natalizio al Nipozzano\r\nThe Frescobaldi family\u2019s traditional red wine rib roast dish.\r\n1 beer rib, approximately 5 pounds\u00a0 (the family recommends the Chianina breed of cattle from Tuscany)\r\nSalt and pepper, to taste\r\n1 large onion, chopped\r\n2 celery stalks, chopped\r\n2 small carrots, cut into \u00bc-inch cubes\r\n3 tablespoons olive oil\r\n\u00bd bottle red wine (the family recommends Marchesi de\u2019 Frescobaldi Nipozzano Riserva)\r\n2 cups tomato pur\u00e9e\r\n1 tablespoon tomato paste\r\n3 tablesoons water\r\n3 tablespoon flour\r\n\r\nSeason the roast beef with salt and pepper and place in a large roasting pan over medium heat. Braise the meat, turning it over to brown all sides. In another pan, fry the onion, celery and carrot in olive oil until soft. When soft, add the onion, celery, carrots and wine to the roast beef pan, and lower the heat. Next, add in the tomato pur\u00e9e and tomato paste, stirring the ingredients to make a sauce. Cover the roasting pan and slow cook for two hours. Make sure the meat and sauce do not dry out by adding a few tablespoons of water.\r\n\r\nWhen the meat is very tender, after about 2\u00bd hours, remove and set aside. Keep the sauce in the pan covered. In another saucepan, combine the flour and water, mixing well. When heated, add the flour mixture to the saucepan. Mix well to produce a thick gravy. Slice the beef and a pour gravy on top before serving. Serves 4.\r\nThe Folonari Family\r\n\u201cWine is central to Christmas and Tuscan wine is at the forefront. We start dinner toasting with a glass of delicious Prosecco and continue to our estate\u2019s red wines and Riservas. After the long meal, we enjoy dessert with our traditional Vin Santo del Chianti. The kids always enjoy all the courses as well as a few drops of wine in their full glasses of water. The night continues in front of the fireplace and a good glass of Grappa is always appreciated. When we have had more than one glass, we ask my mom to sing opera from our favorite composer, Puccini, and she is great!\u201d \u2013Adolfo Folonari of Ruffino, the Tuscan wine brand founded in 1877 and recognized around the world.\r\nVellutata di Zucca Gialla\r\nThis scrumptious pumpkin soup is a Folonari family tradition.\r\n1 white onion, finely chopped\r\n3 tablespoons olive oil\r\n\u00bd Hokkaido pumpkin, cleaned and cut into \u00bd-inch cubes\r\n3 potatoes, peeled and cut into \u00bd-inch cubes\r\n3 cups beef broth\r\n4 Italian amaretti cookies, finely crushed\r\n1 teaspoon ground nutmeg\r\nSalt and pepper, to taste\r\n\u215b cup rye bread croutons (To make your own: cut rye bread it into small cubes, submerge it in olive oil, salt and pepper, to taste, then toast in the over for 30 minutes at about 350\u00b0F.)\r\n2 tablespoons pumpkin seeds, roasted and crushed\r\n1 tablespoon pumpkin seed oil\r\n\r\nPreheat the oven to 350\u00b0F. In a medium pot, fry the chopped onion in olive oil until transparent. Add the pumpkin and potato (proportion should be roughly 2/3 pumpkin to 1/3 potato), and stir for about 5 minutes before pouring in the beef broth. Cook for 20 minutes.\r\n\r\nUsing a hand blender, pur\u00e9e the ingredients until a creamy soup is achieved. Sprinkle in the cookies and nutmeg, and blend again. Add salt to taste and additional broth if you prefer a more liquid soup.\r\n\r\nPlace the croutons and pumpkin seeds on a baking sheet and bake until lightly golden, about 20 minutes. Serve the soup in individual bowls, garnished with a drizzle of pumpkin oil, the toasted croutons and pumpkin seeds.\u00a0 Serves 4.\r\nThe Mazzei Family\r\n\u201cWe use both a Christmas tree and the presepe. The tree represents a more rational side of the holidays and Babbo Natale (Santa Claus). The presepe represents the religious side and the birth of Jesus. On Christmas Day, we go to mass and then reunite with the whole family, grandparents, children and grandchildren for lunch and an exchange of gifts.\u201d \u2013Francesco Mazzei of Marchesi Mazzei, a historic wine company with properties in Chianti Classico, Maremma and Sicily.\r\nTimballo di Spaghetti alla Chitarra\r\nThis guitar string spaghetti cake is tradition at a Mazzei family Christmas dinner.\r\n1 pound spaghetti\r\n4 eggs, whites and yolks separated\r\n10 ounces of prosciutto cotto ham, finely chopped\r\n4 ounces Swiss cheese, grated\r\n4 ounces of Parmigiano cheese, grated\r\n1 cup heavy cream\r\n\u00bd cup breadcrumbs\r\n\u00bc stick butter\r\nSalt and pepper, to taste\r\n\r\nPreheat the oven to 375\u00b0F. Boil the spaghetti in salted water until al dente. Drain and set aside.Whip the egg whites in a bowl until foamy and set aside. In a separate large bowl, combine the spaghetti (still hot), prosciutto, Swiss cheese, Parmigiano and yolks. Mix until well combined. Add the egg whites and the heavy cream and mix until well combined.\r\nButter the insides of a large Bundt pan, then coat the sides of the pan with the breadcrumbs. Pour in the spaghetti mixture and cook in the pre-heated oven for 15\u201320 minutes. Serve hot.\r\n\r\nTo read more about Tuscan traditions, click here.