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How do we Italians celebrate Christmas and its holidays?

di Corrado Alimenti sopra November 10, 2022

How do we Italians celebrate Christmas and its holidays?


Italian Christmas is a special and magical time. December is the month when the holiday spirit is truly felt in the Bel Paese. streets are decorated with red and green details, huge Christmas trees appear in main squares, and people hurry across the streets with packages in their hands. This is the time when bagpipers play Christmas melodies all around and Babbo Natale give candies to the children. The atmosphere is truly magical and festive. Italian Christmas is one of the most important holidays in my country. Although there are some common traits, the magic of Natale is different all over the world. If you want to experience and discover how we Italians celebrate it, just keep reading. You will come up with some clues you may not know about Italian Christmas. 

December 8th?

December is a month chock-full of tradition in Italy. Families begin preparations for Christmas as early as late November, but the formal start to the season is December 8th, the Day of the Immaculate Conception. On this day, Italians decorate their homes and trees, bake cookies, wrap presents, and schools and offices are closed in observance. From December 8th onward until December 26th, the holiday atmosphere only grows stronger. In many Italian streets decorations and massive Christmas trees are on display, Nativity scenes are placed outside for all to see, and the distinct smell of chestnuts, chimneys, mulled wine, and Italian delicacies fills the air. Also, in some Italian cities during this time of year, zampognari (bagpipe players) can be heard delighting passersby with merry songs. All of these traditions work together to make December a wonderful month in Italy.

December 24, 25 and 26?

 Some people in Italy start celebrating with a nice fish dinner on December 24th, while others prefer a light meal and wait for Christmas lunch the following day. However, attending midnight Mass at the local church is a tradition that is practiced by Italians living in every region of the country. After Mass, the Christmas festivities begin.  After the Midnight Mass, it's time to open presents! It is tradition to make a toast with a glass of spumante wine and to enjoy slices of panettone and pandoro cakes. This is also when people open up their presents. Children leave out a glass of milk, nuts, and a slice of Christmas cake for Santa Claus as a way to thank him for the gifts he brings them. Christmas is a special time of year that is celebrated in many different ways, but the traditions followed by Italians are truly unique and memorable.

But december 25th is a special day for all in Italy, where family and friends gather to enjoy delicious food and each other's company. The day starts with a sumptuous meal that may last for hours, followed by board games, tasty snacks and good wine. As the evening wears on, family members take turns unwrapping presents. The fun continues on December 26th, which is also a national holiday in Italy. Once again, family and friends gather to share a meal and enjoy each other's company. These two special days are a time to relax and recharge after the busy holiday season. They are a time to enjoy the simple Pleasures of family, food and friends.

New Year's Eve in Italy?

Celebrations are not over yet! The last mont of the year, everybody knows, is the time to enjoy. After these 3 days of merrymaking, the next date is December 31st. 

New Year's Eve, or "Notte di San Silvestro" in Italian, is a night to celebrate with friends and family. The coming of the New Year is always an occasion for celebration, and there are various ways to celebrate in Italy. A big dinner with friends? A dance night in a cool place? A ski night down to the Alps slopes? Stunning midnight fireworks, festivals, and concerts in the main Italian squares? The magnificent Italian piazze host various events, where to experience Capodanno. Whatever the decision, all over the country, when the clock strikes midnight, it’s time to raise your glass for a brindisi with the perfect sparkling wine or spumante! Spumante, or sparkling wine, is the perfect drink to toast with on New Year's Eve. For all us New Year's Eve is a joyous celebration that people of all ages can enjoy. The festivities typically begin in the afternoon with an aperitivo, followed by a big dinner (known as the cenone) and then plenty of partying to ring in the New Year. The fun doesn't stop there, though; on New Year's Day, Italians often enjoy another large meal with family and friends. And of course, no New Year's celebration would be complete without some traditional food and dessert. Whether you're looking for a fun-filled night out or a relaxing day in, New Year's in Italy is sure to offer something for everyone.


As we approach the last day of the year, you may think that the holiday is now over, but for the Italians the answer is still no: Christmas time in Italy is not complete up to January 6th, Epiphany day (giorno della Befana). 

Epiphany, or the Twelfth Night, is when the Christmas season officially comes to an end in Italy. Although the holiday is technically over, Italians don't consider Christmas to be complete until Epiphany day. Epiphany is celebrated on January 6th and commemorates the three wise men's arrival to Bethlehem. Legend has it that on this night, a witch-like old woman called the Befana arrives on a broomstick and fills children's stockings with sweets and treats. naughty children receive a lump of coal instead. Nowadays, most kids just get a lump of black sugar in the form of licorice as a wink to their naughtiness.

Food and Wine?

The holidays are a time for family, friends, and of course,wine and food. Italian cuisine is some of the best in the world and there's no shortage of delicious dishes to enjoy during the Christmas season. From traditional dishes like cappelletti in brodo, cotechino con lenticchie,  lasagna and cannelloni to sweet desserts like tiramisu and panettone, there's something for everyone to enjoy. So if you're feeling hungry after all that holiday shopping, why not head to your nearest Italian restaurant and feast on some of these mouth-watering dishes? 

Or book a trip to Italy. We are waiting. Italy in the Christmas period is magical.

Wine is an integral part of Italian culture and cuisine. The holidays are no exception, and a festive meal is not complete without a bottle (or two) of good wine. Italians take their wine seriously, and there is a perfect wine to suit any dish or occasion. For example, a robust red wine such as Brunello di Montalcino is the ideal partner for a hearty Christmas roast, while a light white like pinot grigio is a versatile option that goes well with many different types of food. Of course, no celebration is complete without a toast, and sparkling wines like prosecco make the perfect cin cin. So if you're looking to add some Italian flair to your holiday menu, don't forget the wine!

What to visit in Italy during Christmas?

Italy is always magical, but it is especially so during Christmas time. No matter where you go in the country, you will be enchanted by the Bel Paese. There is a wide variety of choices for vacation destinations, but all of them are brilliant during Christmastime.

During the holiday season, Italy comes alive with Christmas markets. These markets are full of wonderful stalls selling handicrafts, regional delicacies, and wines. Mulled wine, or vin brule, is a must-try while you're visiting these markets. The best places to visit for the mercatini di Natale are Trentino-Alto Adige and Veneto. In Trentino-Alto Adige, Bolzano is a must-see. This town has a magical atmosphere with its traditional wooden huts. Bressanone is another beautiful medieval town worth visiting in this region. In Veneto, Cortina and Belluno are both decorated with beautiful wooden stands selling local and regional products as well as unique handicrafts.

Christmas in south Italy is a different and unique experience. The climate is milder which makes it a good choice to take part in some other Italian traditions. In Molise and Abruzzo, bagpipe players come down from the hills and dress in unique costumes to play Christmas songs all around the streets. Campania, specifically the city of Naples, stands out as the cradle of presepe. There are many handicraft shops, such as Giuseppe Ferrignos's laboratory, that sell typical figurines of the nativity scene along with other characters like pizzaioli, bagpipers, and animals. Umbria and Tuscany for all food and wine experience are best choice. Another place with its own distinct folklore is Sicily. Here there are fabulous nativity scenes and Christmas markets with stalls bulging with Sicilian delicacies. Traditional events and parades are also part of Christmas in Sicily. All these make for a Christmas experience like no other!

For  traditional Christmas visit.... Snowy conditions create a beautiful setting for winter sports, and the country's regional cuisine is world-renowned. You can expect to find dishes like vin brule and Bombardino (the Italian version of eggnog) on restaurant menus, and many establishments will also have special Christmas-themed menus. Skiing is a popular pastime in Italy, and there are plenty of slopes to choose from with stunning scenery. If you're looking for a truly unique experience, try the Fiaccolate degli sciatori, where skiers ski down a mountain by moonlight with flaming torches in hand. After a day on the slopes, relax at one of Italy's famous spas, such as the Bagni vecchi di Bormio Spa Resort in Lombardy or the Terme Merano in Alto Adige.

No matter where you decide to go in Italy during Christmastime, you will love it. The country is truly magical during this time of year.


Auguri! Happy Holidays! 


In our next article we will let you have some delicious Italian Christmas recipes.





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