Christmas in Italy is celebrated on December 25 and is the most important holiday for Italians during the year. With Christmas in Italian families, Italians celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ (Gesù Bambino, Jesus Child) in the company of their loved ones . On this day, families and relatives unite, cook, eat and celebrate together and exchange gifts.

The children wait impatiently for Christmas morning, December 25th, to see if “Babbo Natale” Santa Claus, a bearded old man riding on his sleigh, has brought them many gifts that they have already written on little letters days or weeks before.

Christmas time is a wonderful time for children, schools are closed, usually from 23 December to 06 January. Many families take advantage of these days off to head to the mountains, such as the Dolomites, to go skiing. This vacation week is also called“settimana bianca”, the white week.

In recent years a new custom has developed in Italy, that of visiting one of the numerous Christmas markets or Christkindlmärkte. For many Italians, a visit to the unique Christmas markets is part of the holiday season and has become a cherished tradition. The most popular Christmas markets are certainly those in South Tyrol (Bolzano was the first Christmas market in Italy) and in neighboring Trentino, but also in many other Italian cities (Verona, Milan, Rome, Naples and many more) beautiful Christmas markets take place.

The day before December 25 is called “Vigilia” – Christmas Eve in Italy. On this evening, Italian families gather to share a sumptuous meal, usually consisting of fish dishes. At December 24, the stores close earlier and also remain open on 25. and December 26 (St. Stephen’s Day) closed.

During the holidays, Italians really enjoy themselves, especially when eating, they literally enjoy life. Many sweets and desserts are eaten such as the delicious Panettone (cake or sweet bread with raisins) or pandoro and many other traditional regional delicacies are eaten.

Christmas tree, Colosseum, Rome, Italy
Christmas celebration in Italian families: Christmas tree in front of the famous Colosseum in Rome, Lazio, Italy. (Photo ©

Also in Italy, as in very many, other countries of the world, a fir tree is festively decorated for Christmas. In Italian families, Christmas trees are often very colorful, decorated with lots of brightly colored baubles and tinsel. The Christmas tree is usually placed and decorated in Italy on December 08, Day of “Mary Mother of God Immaculate Conception” – “Immacolata Concezione”, a national holiday in Italy. The largest Christmas tree in the world can be admired in Gubbio (Perugia) in the region of Umbria.

Under the tree in Italy is very often found a crib “presepe” representing the birth of Christ. Throughout Italy there are numerous Nativity exhibitions, but certainly the Nativity of Naples, in the Christmas time in bella Napoli is the most impressive. A very special experience is also the Christmas and Advent in Milan.

December 26 is the 2nd Christmas Day, St. Stephen’s Day – “Santo Stefano”, the holiday named after the first Christian martyr St. Stephen. On the evening of St. Stephen’s Day, Italian families often eat everything that is left over from the previous holidays.

In the period of the Christmas holidays also falls “Capodanno” (end of the year), also called New Year’s Eve “San Silvestro”. On the evening of December 31, Italians gather for the last dinner of the year with their families and friends to celebrate the New Year. At midnight there is a toast with spumante (sparkling wine) and admire the fireworks that take place in many places.

The end of the Christmas celebrations and the Christmas feast in the Italian families has come with the day of the Magi – i re magi – Caspar, Melchior and Balthazar, the day when for the Christians, the Magi recognize God in the Child Jesus. The day of the Three Kings is again a very special one, especially for the Italian children, because there comes the old lady or good old Christmas witch “la Befana who flies over the houses and fills the stockings of the good children with lots of sweets and gifts. The naughty kids get coal, but fortunately that almost never happens.

In summary, it can be said that the Christmas time in Italy are the most important celebrations of the Italian families, even more important than Easter or the Carnival in Italy.

This is also said by the most famous Italian proverb:

“Natale con i tuoi, pasqua con ci vuoi” (Christmas with yours, Easter with whom you want!).


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Christmas St. Peter's Basilica Rome
Christmas in Italian families: Christmas at St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome, Vatican City, Italy. (Photos ©