Now we wish you ‘Buon Natale’, that means Merry CHRISTMAS in Italian.

CHRISTMAS in Italy is celebrated over several weeks as Italians celebrate from early December, depending on the region, until the day of Epiphany, on the 6th of January. Especially the children look forward to the start of the CHRISTMAS season in December when CHRISTMAS trees are put up and houses are decorated. 

There is a festive atmosphere during the whole of December. CHRISTMAS markets with various stalls with typical food, CHRISTMAS sweets and gifts can be visited in many towns especially in Italy’s northern Alto-Adige Region. In the image above you see the CHRISTMAS market in Bolzano and the image below shows a popular CHRISTMAS market in Rome.

On 6th of December, many families celebrate St Nicholas Day. Children write letters to St Nicholas asking for gifts and they hang up either a sock or put a plate on the table on Nicholas day’s eve. Sometimes even a St Nicholas visits the homes of children. Then children sing a CHRISTMAS carol or recite a poem.If the children have been good children throughout the last year, they will get some fruits, nuts and sweets from St Nicholas, the naughty ones get usually also a sweet, but one looking like coal.

During the festive season and CHRISTMAS in Italy, a nativity scene, a ‘presepe’, is usually put up in churches, town squares and often in houses and is for many the most important parts of CHRISTMAS decorations. Especially the people of Southern Italy are fond of their nativity scene displays as the image below (taken in Messina/Sicily) shows.

In the Abruzzi region, there is a tradition that bagpipers, so called ‘zampognari’ come into the towns and play their flutes and bagpipes for the people. They symbolize the shepherds who come in search of the new born Jesus baby. Below see two Italians dressed as ‘zampognari’.

On CHRISTMAS Eve, as in the old Catholic tradition, often no food is eaten during the day as this is a fast day. The festive celebrations start after midnight mass. Nowadays, ‘Babbo Natale’, the Father CHRISTMAS, brings presents to children on CHRISTMAS eve.

Children hang up their stockings, so that the befana can bring presents to the good children. The naughty ones get lumps of black sugar sweets. The arrival of ‘La befana’ is celebrated with traditional CHRISTMAS cake, the panettone, a sweet yeast cake, you can see below.


  • The CHRISTMAS season lasts for 3 weeks in Italy. It goes from December 17 to January 6.
  • During this time children go from home to home reciting CHRISTMAS poems and singing.
  • In Italy, children wait until January 6, Epiphany to open their presents.
  • The children’s presents are delivered by Befana, a kind ugly witch who rides on a broomstick.
  • Panettone is a traditional cake filled with candied fruit that is very popular during the holiday season.
  • Manger scenes and CHRISTMAS carols originated in Italy.
  • CHRISTMAS day is reserved for church, family, and feasting.
  • Shepards come into the town and go house-to-house playing bagpipes and singing carols.




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