Monday, December 16, 2013

Italian Christmas Tradition Roundup

When I was in elementary school, I had to write a report on Christmas in another country. Naturally, my family encouraged me to choose Italy. Although our holiday practices are much more Americanized than the media portrays Italian-American Christmas, learning about different cultures' holiday celebrations is always exciting. With 20 distinct regions, "Italian Christmas" means something different to everyone.

Here are four traditions that might define an "Italian Christmas" (with Pinterest links!):

  • Presepio: Many Italians view "Natale," or Christmas as a more religious holiday than the Hallmark holiday it is in the United States. Although many Italians set up Christmas trees in their homes and piazzas, traditionally Nativity scenes were popular. 
  • Feast of the Seven Fishes: Probably one of the most well known traditions in the United States, this is most common in southern Italy. In high school Italian class (the first time I learned of this tradition) we were told Italian families consumed  fish on Christmas Eve to abstain from meat. This is a regional tradition, so not every Italian you meet eats copious amounts of fish on Christmas Eve. 
  • Panettone: A yummy tradition!! The more delicious counterpart to fruitcake, many Italians indulge in this delicious sweet bread after a delectable Christmas dinner. If you want to infuse a little "la bella vita" into your holiday season, this is an easy way to do so. Panettone are so popular, you can buy them at big stores such as Target and Walgreens, or at your local Italian grocery store. FYI: Chocolate Panettone exits (it's heavenly). I hope Nutella Panettone is a product in a few years.
  • La Befana: Babbo Natale visits good little Italian girls and boys today, but when my Nonna was growing up, La Befana was the most famous visitor of the holiday season! La Befana has closer ties to the Epiphany (January 6) than December 25 and continues to search for the Christ Child each year after Santa has come and gone. Read more about her story on
  • Epiphany: The Feast of the Three Kings is the more popular gift-giving day in Italia, commemorating the Wise Men visiting the Holy Family. I told you, Christmas is viewed as a more religious holiday in Italy than it is in the United States.
Do you keep any of these traditions? For me, my favorite "Italian" Christmas tradition includes a chaotic Facebook video chat with all factions of the relatives in Italy and eating Nonna's homemade soup and ravioli! 

Piazza Navona Christmas Market - I would LOVE to visit!
Photo credit:

More to come on Italian holiday traditions!

No comments:

Post a Comment