Bits and Pieces on Christmas Traditions in Italy by mn

Christmas is the Christian Holiday that each year celebrates the birth of Jesus and it is regarded a “family Holiday”. The major traditions in Italy are the Christmas tree, introduced from northern Europe only at the end of the XIX century and more popular in the north, and the Presepe (Nativity Scene) also known as a manger scene or crib, still very popular in southern Italy especially in Naples.

The Presepe tradition appears to have taken origin in ancient times from the cult of the little statues of the Lari (ancestors) of the Romans and Estruscan populations.  In Naples the tradition of Presepe is a must and there are artisans who reproduce the little statues adding each year new figurines so that it is not rare to find the most famous politicians or soccer players or other VIPs reproduced along with the very traditional ones, namely the Holy Family, villagers, the shepherds and the animals.


Santa Claus, Babbo Natale in Italian, is the old man always represented with the white beard that on the night of December the 24th passes through the chimneys and leaves presents for the children under their Christmas tree.

Santa Claus is said to be derived from the figure of Saint Nicholas (San Nicola) a saint especially worshipped in the city of Bari in the Puglia region. In villages and countryside it is quite common to have settings or enactments called “living Nativity scenes” with real people and animals and representation of ancient village life. People can stroll around looking and taking pictures and then have a bite at the “Bancarelle” (stands) selling local finger food and may be have a glass of hot wine to fight the cold.

Traditionally, Christmas tree and Presepe should be prepared on 8th December, date celebrating the Immacolata Concezione (Immaculate Conception) and marking the beginning of celebrations and other popular events called Processioni (Processions), a mix of religious rituals, prayers, music, chants and fireworks during which the statues of the Virgin Mary are taken around the streets of the city or village, usually with a band playing and marking the tempo and people following. Procession are more common in Southern Italy. Here a couple of examples of Procession in two different Sicilian cities:


Termini Imerese

January, 6th, that marks the last day of Christmas Holiday Season, and is the other traditional Holiday. It is called La Befana, represented as an old woman flying through the sky on a broomstick to deliver small gifts and candies to children on Epiphany Eve (the night of January, 5th). Usually parents help children to hang a sock above the firestove to hold whatever La Befana brings, and if a child has not been very obedient he can easily find among other presents a big lump of coal (quite naturally made of sugar).

IMG_3448B - Copia IMG_3404 - Copia IMG_3450_2 - Copia


Bits and Pieces on Christmas Traditions in Italy  by mn  – Part 1

Pictures by mn                                                     

Videos: All credit to respective owners

9 thoughts on “Bits and Pieces on Christmas Traditions in Italy by mn”

  1. Ah! I’m so glad we decided that this was a good idea! I think this feature is going to be great! Thanks, mlla and Michelle!

    So far, I recognize several similar traditions here in the US.

    1. Thank you so much Mn & Michele. It is not only educational but also wonderful to see how Italy celebrates the Christmas. Also to get an incite as to how the guys celebrate Christmas & what they have seen & been part of growing up. I welcome any more inciteful knowledge & pictures of Italy. Yes Kelly wonderful idea.

  2. There is a piece of info that quotes, the Assisi Concert will be aired in America via USA radio circuit in wwsm, does not specify date but perhaps u can check this.

  3. Masterful! What a joy to be a part of this wonderful group of fans. I can hardly wait for the next post. Grazie! Now I am inspired to take my next online lesson “Italian in a Click” – Life is good in Athens, GA (formerly of New Orleans, La) KATRINA changed my life a few years ago.

  4. Interesting, beautiful, and much appreciated, mn and Michele!

    I loved seeing the donkey, too! Our Quaker Meeting had our annual Christmas pageant with all the kids as angels, shepherds, wise men, and the newest parents with their baby (Jesus), and the Sicilian donkey Angelo! We love him so much – 12 years he has visited our little meeting and made us all smile! (We have a veternarian in our congregation.)

    Christmas blessings and gratitude to all,
    ~ Jeanine DuBois, Compassion’s Doorway

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