7 Facts About Christmas in Italy

In many countries across the world, Christmas is one of the most anticipated holidays of the year. However, because of cultural differences, everyone celebrates the shared holiday differently.

For example, the celebration in Italy differs from how other European countries celebrate. One fact about Christmas in Italy is that they do not celebrate Christmas just on December 25. Instead, the country extends the holiday spirit until January.

There are several other Christmas traditions that are uniquely Italian, incorporating their culture into the holiday and giving it a fresh twist. If you want more fun facts about Christmas in Italy, check them out below.

Christmas celebrations start on the 8th of December.

In Italy, is that they begin their celebrations during the Feast of the Immaculate Conception, the Immacolata, which is held every 8th of December. It is considered a national holiday in the country wherein many offices and banks are closed during the day.

This is to make way for the country’s faithful to attend church. Aside from this, they fire a cannon from the Castel San’t Angelo as this announces to the citizens that the religious celebrations have started.

Not only is the day when they are honoring Mary, the mother of Jesus Christ, but this is also the time when many Italians put up their Christmas decorations, kicking off the holidays. Moreover, Christmas does not end during Christmas Day on the 25th of December.

The holidays end on January 6, a day known as the Epiphany, or Epifania, in the country. As such, schools and various offices remain closed until then, making their official Christmas holidays from December 24 to January 6.

Love for Christmas trees are relatively new.

Did you know that decorating Christmas trees in Italy is a relatively new tradition? In fact, it only became a part of many Italian Christmas traditions when the first Christmas tree was erected in the Vatican in 1982.

Nevertheless, despite being a fairly new addition to their list of Christmas traditions, decorating pine trees has quickly become popular in the country. In fact, it has become so integrated into Italian Christmas culture that they often add unique twists to this particular Christmas tradition.

Nativity scenes are vital to Italians Christmas decorations.

The Nativity scene or Presepe, as it is called, is a vital part of Christmas decorations in Italy. They are present in churches as well as public spaces. Family homes also include this scene when decorating.

However, the figurine of baby Jesus is not added until Christmas day itself, leaving the manger blank until then. Aside from this, the Three Wise Men are also added only on the last day of the festivities, on January 6.

Because it is so integrated into their Christmas traditions, many Italian performers even organize live nativity scenes or Presepe vivente. Another interesting Christmas in Italy fact is that the figurines used for these scenes traditionally come from Naples.

Pandoro and Panettone.

Each culture has its unique dish that is specially designed for the holidays, and Italy Christmas fact is that the country has two – the Pandoro and Panettone.  The Panettone is a type of sweet bread that is filled with candied fruit and raisins. Both are equally delicious and is often the pastries of choice that many Italians give instead of Christmas cards

The other, the Pandoro is a star or octagon-shaped cake that features a design made entirely of icing sugar.

By Kuebi = Armin Kübelbeck – own work own website, CC BY-SA 3.0,

An Italian Christmas meal means no meat.

Although meat is a large part of many Europeans’ diets, Italy chooses to go meat-free for their traditional Italian Christmas meals. They call Christmas Eve La Vigilia and they opt to make use of ingredients like pasta and vegetables for their dinner.

For those who still want protein as part of their Christmas meal, they can use fish and other seafood as replacements.

The time for opening gifts is dependent on the region.

While traditionally, Christmas gifts are opened the moment the clock strikes midnight on Christmas Ever, for many Italians, the time for doing so differs from region to region. For example, for northern areas, they open their gifts on December 13 – also known as Saint Lucy’s Day.

Saint Lucy or Santa Lucia is a saint that rides a broom to provide gifts and scrumptious food for “good” children while leaving only coal for naughty ones. In this sense, Santa Lucia is an Italian version of Santa Claus.

Aside from the 13th, children are also given gifts on Christmas Day itself and the day of the Epiphany.

Christmas carols are an old tradition that traces its origins back to pagan times.

There are many ways one can promote holiday cheer, one of which is by singing Christmas carols. After all, nothing quite says Christmas than an upbeat Christmas carol, right? However, despite being mostly associated with Christmas time, carols are part of an old tradition that dates back to pagan times.

In fact, this practice was so prevalent back then that carols were sung all throughout the year during festivities. The reason why it is mostly associated with the Christmas holidays now is that the first churches combined the traditions of pagans and Christians. This resulted in a unique tradition that many Italians engage in until now.

However, the original Latin carols did not catch on and it was only in the 13th century when singing carols became a large part of Italian Christmas culture. This started when St. Francis of Assisi introduced to faithful Italians the first nativity songs. They were even sung in local dialects, enticing parishioners everywhere to engage in the practice.

Final Thoughts

There are other interesting facts about the Christmas traditions in Italy as the country has a rich cultural and historical background. Christmas is a highly anticipated event in Italy, especially considering how deeply rooted Christianity is in their culture.

Although it is a holiday that many countries in the world practice, they have still managed to create traditions that are uniquely Italian as many fun facts about Christmas in Italy can show.