Top Ten Italian Christmas Traditions
Do you know the most popular Italian Christmas traditions?
The Christmas time in Italy is the period of the year to spend with family and friends par excellence.
It starts on the 24th December and lasts until the 6th January, when the “Epifania” (Epiphany) brings that magic moment to an end.
Here you can find the 10 most famous traditions to follow thoroughly for a real Italian Christmas time!
- Panettone – Every Italian region has its Christmas cakes and sweets, but the king of all of them is the soft and buttery panettone, whose ancient recipe comes from Milan. Warm it up a little bit to make it release all its flavours, cut a thick slice and taste it accompanied with cream or a chocolate sauce…it’s just amazing!
- Albero di Natale (Christmas tree) – The Christmas tree is the symbol of Christmas. Normally it is a pine or a fir, real or artificial, decorated with lights, coloured baubles and sparkling garlands. People normally put it up on the 8th December and leave it up until the 6th January, when they sadly remove it and store it for the following year.
- Presepe (Nativity Scene) – The Nativity Scene finds its origins during the Middle Ages in Italy and then spread through the whole catholic world. San Gregorio Armeno, in Naples, is the most famous nativity scene maker’s place, a street where you can find incredible hand-crafted items to decorate your “presepe”.
- Mercatini di Natale (Christmas markets) – If you travel through Italy during the Christmas time, you will be attracted by hundreds cute markets where you can buy little gifts, handmade souvenirs and typical local products. The most picturesque are definitely those in the North of Italy, especially in Bolzano and Trento.
- Regali (gifts) – Italians love exchanging Christmas gifts, which are kept under the tree and unwrapped on the 24th at midnight or on the 25th morning, depending on the local tradition.
- Babbo Natale (Santa Claus) – The red dressed, white bearded old man comes during the night of the 25th December and brings gifts for children, who normally write him a letter with specific requests well in advance, just to be sure that they get what they want!
- Pranzo di Natale (Christmas lunch) – Italian families celebrate Christmas with a rich lunch based on meat. The traditional recipes for the Christmas lunch change from region to region, but above all Italians love eating tortellini in soup and lasagne as a first dish and roasted meat as a second dish, served with potatoes and mixed vegetables.
- Veglione di Capodanno (New Year’s Eve Party) – The new year has to be celebrated properly! The traditional “veglione” takes place in a restaurant or in a disco; it starts with the so-called “cenone” (literally “big dinner”) and carries on playing board games like tombola and dancing until the crack of dawn.
- Lenticchie a mezzanotte (lentils at midnight) – You haven’t got it wrong! On the New Years’Eve people celebrate eating lentils at midnight as they are symbolic of money, so consuming them is a wish of good profits.
- Befana – On the 5th January, before going to bed, children hang up a stocking to be filled with sweets and chocolates by the Befana, an old witch who comes during the night on her magic broom. Be careful: if you haven’t been good, she will bring you only coal!
And if you are in Christmas mood, read more about this festivity here.