Italian Christmas Customs and Traditions

Italy – Christmas Customs and Traditions

Italian Christmas Customs and Traditions.  The Christmas season in Italy revolves around the Christian aspect of  the festival. Italy has many unique customs and traditions and although in these modern times when customs from other countries are also adopted Italy still holds dear these special  customs. The Christmas season begins on the 8th December with the feast of the Immaculate Conception, beautiful ‘Presepe’ -Cribs- are set up in churches and homes around Italy and it is around these that will be the focus of Christmas. The main feastival begins on the 24th December and will last until 6th January, Epiphany. These dates go back to the Roman times which started with Saturnalia a winter solstice festival and ended with the Roman New Year the Calands.  Today the Holy season is started with the firing of a canon from the Castle of St.Angelo in Rome. In the lead up to Christmas children will go from house to house singing carols and poems, homes of Carpenters will be visited to honour St.Joseph. In the week before Christmas they dress up as shepherds and receive money for singing so that they can buy presents. Unlike other countries children do not make wish lists for Father Christmas, but instead theym write letters of love to their parents which are read out after the meal on Christmas Eve. Prior to the meal of Christmas Eve, the Cenone, people fast strictly for 24 hours, the meal will be quite lavish and will vary from region to region. On Christmas day, at noon,  the Pope will read out his Christmas blessing to those gathered in St.Peters Square. Children do not receive their presents at Christmas but have to wait until the 6th January when the witch, La Befana fills their stockings, although Bobbo Natale will also help in this task. The story behind La Befana is that she was too late when she went to visit Jesus in the manger and therefore she now visits all the houses where there are children just in case Jesus should be there. Another tradition in Italy is the Urn of Fate, this is a decorative bowl in which there are presents for all the family, when everyone is gathered together they all draw out their respective gift

Buon Natale!


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