Christmas in Italy – Their Customs are World Popular

The Italians really enjoy the Christmas season.

They are a Christian nation that believes firmly in their religion and their traditions.

Remember, Vatican City is a country inside of Italy and the epicenter of the Catholic world.

So, celebrating the birth of Jesus is something that naturally comes to these people. Here is a closer look at how the Italians celebrate Christmas.


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How the Nation of Italy Celebrates Christmas

Italians have their own unique way of celebrating Christmas. Italians celebrate Christmas from December 24 to January 6th.

This is known as the 12 Days of Christmas. It begins on Christmas Eve and ends on the Feast of Epiphany.

This is important because Italians have a long holiday season where they honor the birth of Christ, engage in their traditions and relish in their customs.

Italian people will put up decorations in late November. The Nativity Scene is a huge part of the Italian Christmas celebration.

Italy Celebrates Christmas

Millions of homes will have some type of Nativity display in their home.

This custom is very important to the Italian people. It was started back in 1223 by St. Francis of Assisi. The custom never faded away and it grew stronger over the years.

Italians decorate lots of Christmas trees and they will adorn their cities with decorations as well.

Many markets will prepare goods for Christmas and items will be sold at a rapid pace during the holiday season.

Italians do like to shop and spend money, but their commercialism is not on the same level as it is in America. Italian Christmases are more laid back than the American variety. 

A Roman Christmas

Rome has plenty of traditions. Remember this special nation is located inside of Italy. Rome has lots of Nativity displays and even a giant-sized Christmas trees.

The markets are open and thrive throughout the holiday season.

People can pray at Vatican City during the Midnight Mass and there are plenty of sermons taking place in various parts of Rome during the holiday season.

Midnight Mass is a huge event that is often televised in Italy during the holidays. It a national event for the Italian people.

Other great Christmas customs and affairs also take place in this city. Rome is busy during the Christmas season and people should plan in advance before they visit the area.

If they’re lucky; they might even get to see the pope during the holidays.

Italian Traditions and Customs for Christmas

Many parades and local events take place in Italy during the holiday season.

Festivals and processions are common in many of the cities, towns, and villages all over Italy.

They even have early holidays such as St. Nicholas Day where they hang up stockings and they ask for gifts. They also sing carols and say Christmas poems.

Italian Traditions and Customs for Christmas

On December 8 the Italians celebrate the Day of the Immaculate Conception. This holiday honors Mary the Mother of Jesus and it also is the official start to the holiday season.

People will start to put up decorations for their homes on this day. Remember, some people start decorating in late November.

However, this holiday lets people know its time to get ready for Christmas.

People also go caroling and some Italian locations have bagpipe players who travel playing their music during the holidays.

The music is primarily old traditional Christmas tunes that have been played for hundreds of years. Radio stations all over Italy will even play modern Christmas music.

People will be able to hear Christmas music all throughout the season.

Italians also have a unique custom during Christmas. They usually don’t eat meat on Christmas Eve.

This custom represents a sort of fast for the Italian people. However, many Italian families do eat fish and other foods on Christmas Eve. Some families will eat light and serve simple food items at their Christmas Eve meal.

Italians believe in Santa Clause but they call him by an alternate name: “Father Christmas.” He brings presents to kids on Christmas Eve.

People in Italy will not open their presents until the appropriate time.

Some people will open them on Christmas morning. Most people open their presents after Christmas lunch and others wait until the Day of Epiphany.

La Befana is another Italian custom worth mentioning. She is an old woman or a Christmas witch that brings children presents.

She does this when she searches for Baby Jesus. People will dress up as La Befana at local markets to pass out gifts and to help promote the holidays. Many families welcome her arrival with sweet cakes and other goodies.

Don’t forget that each city and region in Italy celebrates Christmas in their own unique way.

In some regions, people ski down snow-covered slopes with torches on Christmas Eve before the arrival of Christmas day at 12 a.m.

Christmas in Italy can be a great experience for Italian people and for anyone visiting the nation during the holiday season.

In Italian Happy/Merry Christmas is ‘Buon Natale’, in Sicilian it’s ‘Bon Natali’ and in Ladin (spoken in some parts of the northern Italian region of South Tyrol) it’s ‘Bon/Bun Nadèl’. It is interesting to know how people wish Happy or Merry Christmas in other languages.

Learn More With the Help of Video

Main Points About Christmas in Italy

  1. During the Christmas season, a lot of Italian families have nativity scenes in their houses.
  2. On Christmas eve, children go out caroling on the streets, dressed as shepherds.
  3. Usually on Christmas eve, many Italian avoid meat, their meals are typically made out of seafoods. In recent times, it is called the feast of seven fishes.
  4. Christmas is not complete in Italy without ‘panettone’; a dry fruity sponge cake accompanied with a cup of hot chocolate.
  5. There are series of novenas eight days prior to Christmas. Families and loved ones come together to attend church services and to offer series of prayers.


As important as the Christmas tree is in many households around the world, is the nativity scene in Italy. St. Francis of Assisi started the tradition in 1223 after having seen the place in Bethlehem where it was thought Jesus was born, to tell the Christmas story.

Another Italian Christmas tradition is children singing carols and playing shepherds pipes, dressed in shepherds sandals and hats, and that no meat is eaten on Christmas Eve.

If you have been to Italy on Christmas or stay in Italy then do share your first-hand experience in the comments below.

Word Cloud for Christmas in Italy

The following is a collection of the most used terms in this article on Christmas in Italy. This should help in recalling related terms as used in this article at a later stage for you.

Christmas in Italy


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