PRESEPI: The traditional nativity scene is one of the most prevalent Christmas decorations all through Italy, but especially in Naples which is famous for the handmade versions.
MIDNIGHT MASS: The spirituality of Christmas in Italy is evident as Italians flock to Christmas Eve Midnight Mass services all over the country so that they can welcome the birth of Jesus. In some Northern Italian communities, many ski down the slopes with torches to welcome Christmas after the church services.
CHRISTMAS EVE NOSHING: On the night before Christmas, Italians tend to eat light and avoid meat in preparation for the feast of the next day. A light dinner of fish is standard in many regions of the country.
CAROLING: Known as the Novena, the eight days leading up to Christmas are filled with the music of carolers in the streets. In the southern parts of the country, bagpipe players join in on the festivities.
CHRISTMAS DAY FEAST: Christmas Day is a time of great revelry and celebration throughout Italy as people congregate with family and dine on lavish feasts of roasts, pasta, and a myriad of sweet desserts.
PANETTONE: This classic Italian sweet bread is a favorite treat on Christmas Day. Although the delicacy originated in Milan, it is now a traditional holiday treat in both Italy and in other parts of Europe.
DAY OF THE EPIPHANY: On January 6, Italians celebrate the Day of the Epiphany as the commemoration of the visit of the Three Kings to Jesus in Bethlehem. The day is celebrated with a dinner and the giving of gifts.
LA BEFANA: In many families in Rome and Bologna, the Day of the Epiphany is marked with a visit from La Befana, a good witch who drops off presents as she sweeps through town. The legend began as a story of a woman who tried to follow the Three Kings on their way to Bethlehem but got lost along the way.
TOMBOLA: As Italians gather together to celebrate the season, it is common for a fun game of tombola to break out. Originating in Naples, this board game is a favorite tradition for many families with some even offering prizes to the winners.
TOAST: It’s customary to toast to good health at every Italian meal, and even more so on one of the most important meals of the year. The best way to toast this holiday season is with a glass of Brunello di Montalcino in one hand and a love one by your side.
The vast array of festive Italian Christmas traditions is what makes celebrating the season in Italy such a treat.