The holiday season is upon us and this year will be our first time celebrating them in bella Italia. December 8th marks the beginning of the Christmas season with the Immaculate Conception of Mary. On this day the Church decided that Mary was born without the stain of original sin. Celebrated with holiday lights going up, Christmas markets opening, and nativity scenes coming to life. Every region celebrates its own unique way of Christmas in Italy.

5 Fun Facts about Christmas in Italy

1. Did you know that Italy holds the world record for the largest Christmas tree? Located in the Umbria region the Gubbio Christmas Tree is 650 meters high and 350 meters wide. The tree consists of 3,000 lights placed up the slopes of Mount Ingino. On the eve of December 7th, the night before the Immaculate Conception of Mary, the tree is illuminated and can be seen from 50 kilometers away!

2. Speaking of Christmas trees, the pine-decorated tree is very new to Italy. The first Christmas tree display took place in St. Peter’s Square in the Vatican in 1982. This is when the then-serving Pope John Paul II chose to introduce this Northern European tradition as a symbol of Christmas to the festivities taking place in Rome.

Gubbio Christmas Tree

Nativity Scenes are the spirit of Christmas in Italy

3. The Nativity scene represents the Holy Family in the stable and is known as presepio or presepe in Italian. Naples is known as the traditional maker of Nativity scenes. Where the Christmas crib is an art form that has been mastered for centuries.

In fact, the largest Nativity scene is located at Museo Nazionale di San Martino. With over 162 people, 80 animals, and 450 miniature objects. You can visit the museum year-round and shop individual pieces for your own personal Nativity scene at Via San Gregorio Armeno in Naples.

Italy is the birthplace of Christmas Carols

4. It seems many worldwide traditions originate from Italy and Christmas Carols are a part of them. Stories tell that St. Francis of Assisi introduced the Christmas tradition of caroling. Carols were simple songs that people could sing anywhere as an expression of their joy at the birth of Christ.

5. There are four gift-giving traditions at Christmas in Italy

  • 6th of December when St.Nicolas visits the upper north region of the country
  • 13th of December when St.Lucia leaves a present for children who have been good (celebrating mainly in the northern region)
  • Christmas Eve/Day when the modern Babbo Natale (Father Christmas) or traditional Baby Jesus brings presents to children all over Italy
  • 6th of January when Bafena, a broom-riding old lady with a long nose, fills the stockings with sweets for all the good children and lumps of coal for all the naughty ones

In the midst of the traditions & celebrations, families gather at home with their loved ones on Christmas eve and Day like most of the world.

For our first Christmas, we are heading to Catania, Sicily with our friend, Su Guillory. We’re both new to living in Italy and seeking to explore in-person a bigger city during the celebrations.

During our trip, we are stopping at Stonehenge in Sicily, Argimusco, for the Winter Solstice

The longest night of the year and the most potent day of prayer where we will host our first ceremony in Italy. We’re pretty excited about the itinerary we’ve planned and can’t wait to write and share how our trip goes. Stay tuned!

Photo by Gianluca Franco

Loved reading about Christmas in Italy? You might like our article, Easter Traditions in Italy

Curious about where to begin traveling in Italy? Check out our Free Travel Guide

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