How the Italians celebrate Christmas

In Italy, Christmas is typically celebrated between Christmas Eve and Epiphany (i.e., December 24th until January 6th). However, the spirit of Christmas often descends much earlier than that with events taking place from December 8, which is the Feast Day of the Immaculate Conception, or even from late November.

Traditionally, Italians exchange gifts on Epiphany (January 6), which is the 12th day of Christmas and when the three Wise Men gave Baby Jesus their gifts. In addition, it’s not traditionally Santa (Babbo Natale in Italian) that delivers the gifts but an ugly witch called La Befana, who arrives in the night to fill children's stockings. However, the exchange of gifts on Christmas Day is becoming more popular.

As elsewhere, Christmas is a time for families to come together in Italy, and on Christmas Eve many families partake in a meat-free dinner (or fish in the south), before enjoying a traditional bonfire in the main squares, followed by midnight mass. There are often displays and processions, an example of which is the bagpipe and flute players (zampognari and pifferai), dressed in traditional colourful costumes, who take to the streets in Rome and Naples as a part of Christmas celebrations.

If decorations and lights are your thing then Torino, in northern Italy's Piemonte region, is your city! From November to January over 20 km of streets and squares are illuminated by creations from some of the best artists in Europe. Meanwhile, Monte Ingino, above Gubbio in central Italy's Umbria region, is where you’ll find a 650 m tall Christmas tree adorned with 700 lights and a huge star that can be seen 50 km away! It was once in the Guinness Book of World Records as being the tallest tree in the World. Torchlight also plays a big role in Christmas festivities with carolling and torchlight processions taking place in Abbadia di San Salvatore, near Montalcino, and a torchlight parade courtesy of hundreds of skiers snow-ploughing down the Alps in Cortina d'Ampezzo carrying torches.

Thinking about spending next Christmas or New Year in Italy? Let us take the stress out of your holiday – we have a dedicated team of specialists who can help you create the perfect get-away!

Search Keywords

Enter keywords below to perform a search within the events to find more relevant posts