Christmas in Italy: Facts About Italian Christmas Traditions

Here are some facts about Italian Christmas traditions, celebrations and customs.

  • Christmas in Italy is an extremely popular holiday, and is celebrated all over the country. Festivities last from about the 6th of December until Epiphany, the 6th of January.

  • Most Italians give and receive gifts on the 12th day of Christmas, January 6th. A witch known as La Befana is said to bring gifts in the night to put in children’s stockings.
  • Attending midnight mass and eating a meatless dinner on Christmas Eve is an important part of Christmas in Italy. In parts of southern Italy, families eat a meal of seven fishes.
  • St. Peter’s Square in Rome is a wonderful place at Christmas. The square is decorated with a large Christmas tree, and the Pope gives his Christmas address at noon on Christmas Day.
  • Many children dress up as shepherds a week before Christmas in Italy. They sing and play musical instruments, and are given money to buy gifts.
  • One of the world’s largest Christmas trees is created every December on a mountain side near Gubbio. Thousands of lights spread across the mountain form a tree shape, covering over 1000 square metres.
  • Nativity scenes can be seen in Naples, while the city of Verona is known for its decorative lights. Traditional bonfire celebrations are held all over Italy on Christmas Eve.
  • Italian Christmas cake, known as panettone, is often served after mass on Christmas Eve. It is a dry fruit cake, and is typically eaten with a cup of hot chocolate.
  • Sweet snacks and treats are eaten in Italy all through the holiday season. Popular goodies include sweet honey breads, marzipan, nougat and gingerbread, all symbolizing the sweetness of life.
  • The Yule Log is important in Italian homes, and many families keep it burning nonstop until New Year. In Tuscany, a huge log is set on fire, during the Festival of the Log.

What next? Find out more about Italy, or visit our Christmas Around the World section to discover more facts about how other countries celebrate Christmas.