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How is Christmas in Italy?

The most magical time of the year is for sure CHRISTMAS!!! If you're one of those who can't resist the charm of a traditional nativity scene, the memory of songs under the Christmas tree and the scent of a good soft panettone... your holiday destination really needs to be in Italy ! Come with us to travel in the Christmas traditions of Italy!

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How is Christmas in Italy?

The most magical time of the year is coming… If you’re one of those who can’t resist the charm of a traditional nativity scene, the memory of songs under the Christmas tree and the scent of a soft panettone, your destination for the weekend year it has to be an Italian city! From north to south, the only complication will be choosing where to have supper, which fair to go to, which choir to attend and where to shop for Christmas. Let’s get to our Post of the day! How is Christmas in Italy? Here at Your Travel to Italy with Ana Patricia you make the trip of your dreams!!! ALSO: see our “Accommodation in Italy – Tips for your holidays!”  Read also: Examples of Itineraries in Italy!


Advent is a beloved time of year in Italy and tradition calls for the town squares to be all decorated with lights and Christmas decorations during this period – enchanting adults and children with the emotions of this legend and this unique festive atmosphere . Nativity scenes, festivities in squares and Christmas fairs are part of this tradition. Also read our Special Post What to do in Italy at Christmas? and Where to go for Christmas and New Year’s dinner?

In fact, in our country there wasn’t a real custom of holding Christmas fairs, but for some years now this Nordic tradition has been growing – starting in the Trentino Alto Adige region and also the famous Christmas fairs in Bolzano, Merano, Bressanone, Brunico and Vipiteno. Discover our Section on Festivities in Italy!

1) How is Christmas in Italy? FULL OF MARKETS

The fairs are now present throughout Italy, each with its own format and characteristics, on different dates; it is a strong tourist-appealing event every year. From November 30th to January 6th, the Vipiteno Christmas Market (beautiful medieval town that turns into a fairy tale during the holiday season) takes place. The Christmas atmosphere in Vipiteno (the perfume, the colorful decoration, the enchantment of the lights and products) is a very important visitor spot, making it one of the favorite destinations during the Christmas season.

An unmissable stop during the holiday season is, without a doubt, the Christmas fairs, where the atmosphere is surreal, magical and exciting. The oldest fair in Italy is Bolzano, which takes place in the Historic Center of the capital Alto Adige. Other symbols characteristic of this tradition are the Christmas tree and the nativity scene.

2) How is Christmas in Italy? VISIT CHRISTMAS TREES

It is customary to set up the Christmas tree on December 8th (the date on which the Immaculate Conception is celebrated) and take it down on January 6th (Epiphany of the Lord, as the saying goes: “tutte le feste porta via”. The tree is adhered to by most Christmas traditions – unlike the nativity scene, which is a “more Italian” custom. The origin of the word “crib” comes from the Latin praesepe, meaning “stable.” Thus, the word praesepium was derived, which refers the manger used as a crib for baby Jesus.

3) How is Christmas in Italy? VISIT THE NATIVITY SCENES

The first nativity scene in the world was built by the work of Saint Francis Assisi. In 1223, the saint placed a representation of the Infant Jesus in a cave, near the convent where he lived, in the presence of an ox and a donkey – precisely for the purpose that others could understand better the conditions of the place where Jesus was born. Also read our Post What to do in Rome in the New Year?

The nativity scene in Italy is even more significant than the Christmas tree. So much so that there are people who build their own crib and distribute it in the various small craft shops that for centuries have transmitted the art of the nativity scene from generation to generation. This is what happens in the markets of via San Gregorio Armeno in Naples, an entire street in the center of the city dedicated to this Christmas symbol, sprigs of holly and sprigs of mistletoe. In Alto Adige, it is already a tradition to organize the classic Christmas fairs to wait for Santa Claus, receive presents and watch the procession in honor of St Nicholas.

4) How is Christmas in Italy? FULL OF TRADITIONS

What are the Christmas traditions in Italy? What are the customs that cross the country of the boot from north to south? There are many, many! From St Lucy to Befana, passing by the nativity scene, Christmas tree, until reaching the traditional recipes and the typical menu of the holidays parties (which vary from region to region). Here are some examples of Christmas traditions followed in Italy, which are different in each city on the peninsula.

Christmas with the Family and the Mass

It is customary in most Italian regions to spend Christmas with the family. Starting the day before, on December 24th (when you have supper and wait for midnight to open your presents or go to Mass, you can usually choose between attending this Mass or attending Mass on the 25th in the morning). On Christmas Day, the family gathers for lunch and sometimes spends the afternoon playing some typical games of this time (such as tombola) and eating typical sweets (such as panettone, pandoro, samanta, etc.).

The Italian Santa Claus

Depending on the region or city, Santa Claus is tied to two different female figures: St Lucy and Befana. The first was a Christian martyr who lost her sight; she brings presents to the children in the early morning hours between December 12th and 13th, with the exception of some areas in the north, which wait for the bell to ring to announce the Christmas present spree. In the rest of Italy, the last gasp of Christmas presents is brought by Befana, the long-skirted, big-nosed old witch who travels around the world on a broom. She brings candy to the nice kids and a piece of charcoal to the naughty ones.

Watch this video and learn: What is the average cost of a day in Italy?

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How is Christmas in Italy? Thus, the Christmas symbology displayed in the houses, decorations and adornment varies from region to region – traditions change depending on the city, but the protagonists are always the Christmas tree and the nativity scene.

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