Traditions and curiosities about the most wonderful time of the year in Italy
Christmas in Italy is a serious issue. All across the peninsula, Natale is about family, food and having some good time with your beloved ones. From the decoration of the tree, to the set-up of the nativity scene and the endless feasts of 24th, 25th and 26th December…our country is the land of family traditions and customs and during Christmas holidays all of them come to life in incredible and customized ways! Each Italian family in fact, has its own interpretation of the original traditions: from North to South there are so many beautiful diversities coexisting!
How is Christmas celebrated in Italy then? Let’s find it out together!
L’albero: the Christmas tree
It is not Christmas until Italian houses are decorated with lights, inflatable Babbo Natale (Santa Claus) and the tree! It is the symbol of this holiday and its decoration is an affair that concerns the whole family! But when should the tree be decorated? The Christmas season officially starts on 8th December, the day of the Immaculate Conception, and it should be removed on 6th January.
If you have the chance of visiting Italy during this special time of the year, you will notice that giant trees may be spotted around every corner of Italian cities and in the most beautiful and famous sites of the major cities: in front of the Colosseum and in the middle of St. Peter’s Square in Rome or in Milan’s Piazza del Duomo, for example.
Il presepe: Nativity scene
The tradition of having a nativity scene next to the tree is particularly felt in Southern Italy. When decorating the tree, the presepe cannot miss!
Naples is particularly specialized in the artisanal hand-made tradition of crafting the characters composing the nativity scene; but, also Rome is not an exception. The center of Christianism and home of the Pope in fact, each year presents a beautiful, huge nativity scene right in front of St. Peter’s Basilica. Simply marvelous!
Il cenone: the culinary tradition
Italians are food lovers, everybody knows that. But during Christmas, grannies give their best: hours and hours spent on cooking! On 24th, 25th and 26th the stomach of Italians is really put to the test! Until you haven’t experienced the Italian Christmas feast you do not know what it means to be really stuffed!
On Northern Italy they tend to celebrate more the actual Christmas day, while in Center and Southern Italy the Eve is given more importance. Nevertheless, the keyword remains the same: food, food and food! The protagonist of the Christmas Eve dinner is undoubtedly the fish: meat is absolutely banned. A very traditional custom in our country is the Tombola and card games that follow every feast. Then, the unwrap of presents obviously. Some families do it on the evening of the 24th, others on the 25th in the morning. It usually depends on children: families with little kids will tend to simulate the Santa Claus arrival during the night and will consequently unwrap their presents the following day.
What to do in Rome during Christmas time?
The first thing to do is obviously to visit the many Christmas markets that can be found in the Capital.
The most suggestive and traditional Christmas market in Rome can be found in the wonderful Piazza Navona. The heart of Rome hosts beautiful artisanal stands where you will be able to find unique gifts for your beloved ones and you will have the chance to taste candies and traditional sweets and to appreciate the wonders of Rome surrounded by the magic atmosphere of Christmas.
Far from the center of the city, in the heart of the neighbor EUR, Passeggiate di Natale is the perfect place for families: a magic atmosphere with lights, carousels, Christmas trees and lovely songs played in background.
Children will also have the opportunity to meet Santa Claus in flesh and blood in Lunghezza. The castle of this site in the outskirts of Rome becomes each year the home base of Babbo Natale: a real journey through the magic world of the most famous character of Christmas.
What about your country? What is Christmas like? Are there any similarity with Italy? Comment below!