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Italian Christmas traditions are deeply rooted in family, religion, and rich cultural customs. The holiday season in Italy is a time of joy, togetherness, and cherished traditions that have been passed down through generations.

Italian Family Traditions

In Italy, family holds a central place in Christmas celebrations. The festivities often kick off on December 8th, with the Feast of the Immaculate Conception, a national holiday. This day marks the beginning of the Christmas season, and families begin decorating their homes and setting up nativity scenes, known as presepi.

Mother Mary gave birth of Jesus Christ The Manger figurine

On the December the 8th, the record breaker Christmas tree is lit every year in Gubbio and calls for thousands and thousands of people attention with its imposing figure, gently laid out on Mount Igino.

One of the most cherished Italian traditions is the gathering of families for a big meal on Christmas Eve, known as La Vigilia (The Vigil) or Cena della Vigilia (Christmas Eve Dinner). This meal typically consists of multiple courses, featuring dishes like seafood, pasta, and traditional Italian sweets like panettone and pandoro. The number 7 is significant in this feast, so it often includes 7 or more fish dishes.

After dinner, families attend Midnight Mass (La Messa di Mezzanotte) to celebrate the birth of Jesus. Churches are beautifully decorated, and the air is filled with hymns and the spirit of Christmas.

On Christmas Day, families come together again for another sumptuous meal, exchanging gifts and enjoying quality time with loved ones. The day is filled with laughter, music, and the joyous spirit of giving.

Religious Traditions

Religion plays a significant role in Italian Christmas celebrations. Nativity scenes, or presepi, are a fundamental part of Italian Christmas decorations. Families often create intricate scenes depicting the birth of Jesus, including figurines of Mary, Joseph, the shepherds, and the Three Wise Men. These scenes are displayed in homes, churches, and public places, evoking the true meaning of Christmas.

In Gubbio, where Massari Travel has created the Ambassador Project, the spectacular medieval city dresses up as a big, living grotto, where every street and every corner reminds all the visitors that it is Christmas.

Throughout December, towns and cities host nativity scene exhibitions, attracting locals and tourists alike. These displays often feature elaborate and artistic representations of the Nativity, showcasing the creativity and devotion of the Italian people.

Another notable tradition is the novena, a nine-day series of prayers leading up to Christmas. Families gather to recite prayers, sing carols, and reflect on the spiritual significance of the holiday.

Customs and Festive Celebrations

The weeks leading up to Christmas are filled with various customs and festivities across Italy. In some regions, children eagerly await the arrival of La Befana, a kind-hearted old witch who delivers gifts to well-behaved children on the eve of Epiphany (January 6th).

Throughout December, Christmas markets (Mercatini di Natale) spring up in towns and cities, offering traditional foods, handmade crafts, and festive entertainment. Piazza Navona in Rome and Piazza Santa Croce in Florence are known for their vibrant Christmas markets, attracting locals and tourists seeking holiday cheer.

The Yule log, or Ceppo, is a traditional symbol of good luck and is often burned in the fireplace during the holiday season. It’s adorned with candles, ribbons, and sometimes edible decorations, and its burning symbolizes the end of the old year and the beginning of a new one.

Very famous is the Fiera del Ceppo in Lucignano, another pearl of Massari Travel Ambassador Project, where a log is burnt in the public piazza on the night of the 17th of December.

Italian Christmas traditions blend the warmth of family gatherings with the rich tapestry of religious customs. The emphasis on togetherness, feasting, and the celebration of the Nativity creates a magical atmosphere that captivates both locals and visitors. From elaborate nativity scenes to mouthwatering feasts, Italy’s Christmas traditions reflect a deep reverence for faith, family and give you a great reason for travelling all around Italy in winter with Massari Travel.

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