How to celebrate Christmas like the Italians!


No matter where you are in the world, Christmas is a magical experience. But in Italy, we believe, even more so. There are several traditions that us Italians hold that you won't find elsewhere. If you're hosting a truly Italian Christmas - here are some things you won't want to forget;

  • The dates. We start on the 8th December with the celebration of the Immaculate Conception, and we don't stop until January 6th when the Wise Men arrived in Bethlehem. 
  • Prepare the presepe. Preparing the Christmas Crib is a big tradition in Italy. Most churches or other public areas will have at least one nativity scene on display as well as in homes. Baby Jesus (as the story goes) is usually added only on Christmas Eve. 
  • La Novena. The nine days before Christmas, known as the Novena, is when we remember the shepherd's journey to baby Jesus' manger. This is often celebrated by Children visiting houses in their neighbourhood dressed as shepherds and performing Christmas songs or poems in exchange for money or sweets!
  • The Pope. Crowds gather in St Peter's Square (Rome) for the Pope's Christmas Eve mass and also at noon on Christmas Day. He gives the blessing from the basilica.
  • Midnight celebrations. At midnight on Christmas Eve in Italy, churches ring their bells and canons are fired from Rome's Castle Sant'Angelo to celebrate baby Jesus' birth.
  • Bagpipes!? In the south of Italy, zampognari (or bagpipe-playing shepherds) perform songs dressed in traditional clothing.
  • Fish supper! Traditionally, Christmas Eve was a day of fasting before Christmas for Catholics - which is something still observed by some families - and the evening meal, known as the 'Feast of Seven Fishes' is usually based on fish rather than meat.
  • Put it in a letter. As well as writing letters to Father Christmas with present requests, in Italy, it is tradition for children to write letters to their parents telling them how much they love them. They're usually decorated and read out after the main Christmas meal. 
  • Cenone. Literally meaning 'big dinner'. On Christmas Day, the 'cenone' menu varies throughout Italy but you can guarantee that it'll include pasta, and meat will be present this time! The meal is then followed by panettone and other desserts. Often these desserts are filled with nuts which traditionally serve as a symbol of fertility for the coming year. 
  • La Befana. Although many children now receive their presents from Father Christmas on Christmas Eve, the tradition of 'La Befana' is still present in many Italian homes. The story of the old woman who brings gifts on the eve of the Epiphany. According to the story, the Three Wise Men came to her house and invited her to join their search for Christ. She was busy with housework so declined their offer, but then changed her mind, and to this day is still searching for the child, leaving presents for any good children she comes across.

However you spend yours, Merry Christmas from all at Valentina!

Published at: 28-11-2017
Tags: christmas Italian panettone celebrate festivity