The holiday season is in full force yet again! Hopefully you’re getting all of your Christmas shopping done (if you need some suggestions, click here and here!) and have been able to enjoy all the seasonal decorations and activities. But what about all of the holiday activities and celebrations in Italy? Well, that’s what we’re here for, of course!
There are so many different celebrations and holidays that start at the end of November and go until the beginning of January, and covering them all would take a pretty long time, so we’ve picked some of the larger celebrations to give you a general idea about Christmastime in Italy!
Feast Day of the Immaculate Conception is held on December 8th, and it marks the beginning of the holiday season. It is a national holiday in Italy, and on this day, there are parades and other special events, churches have mass, and the Pope leads a ceremony by the Spanish Steps. Of course, you can also see typical Italian Christmas decorations and nativity scenes (presepi), and the Christmas markets usually open on this day too!
Of course, there’s Christmas Eve and Christmas, but they’re celebrated a little differently in Italy than in the United States. Christmas trees, Father Christmas (Babbo Natale), and giving presents on Christmas are becoming more popular, but traditionally, presents are given on the Feast of Epiphany (which we’ll get to in a minute!). On Christmas Eve, families eat a meat-less dinner. In southern Italy especially, some families celebrate the Feast of Seven Fishes, which, as you could guess, consists of a dinner with seven different types of fish. Some families eat a dinner with a different number of fish, but typically it is an odd number that has some sort of significance. For example, some families eat 13 different types of fish because it supposedly represents Jesus and the Twelve Apostles. On Christmas, however, families eat a dinner with lots of meat, and the Pope gives a midnight mass and addresses the public at noon on Christmas Day. The day after Christmas is known as Saint Stephen’s Day, and it’s a national holiday too.
The Christmas season continues past December though, and Italians celebrate the Feast of Epiphany on January 6th. It commemorates the Wise Men’s visit to Jesus and the giving of gifts to him, so this is when Italians typically exchange presents! There are festivals on this day, and children also get toys from La Befana, a witch who flies around the night before and puts toys in the stockings of all the good children and coal in the stockings of all the bad ones.
There are many other celebrations held in different parts of Italy during this time, but those are some of the major ones for you! Does your family celebrate any of these Italian traditions? Let us know in the comments section below! And from all of us at La Piazza di Carolina, have a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!