Italian Christmas traditions

Italian Christmas traditions

I’m a bit late, I know, Christmas has passed.

However I believe it’s always a good time to learn some Italian Christmas traditions and some Italian Christmas vocabulary. So, here we are.

As you might know, Christmas is one of the most important feast days in Italy, since it’s strictly connected to Christianity.

For those of you who don’t know, Christmas, Natale in Italian, is the day Christians commemorate the birth of Jesus Christ.

So, let’s see some of the most common Italian Christmas traditions and some Italian Christmas vocabulary.


In Italy decorations start to appear on December 8, the day of the Immaculate Conception of Mary.

In every town you’ll see luci – lights – and alberi di natale – Christmas trees. In some cities and towns you’ll also see il presepe – the Nativity crib scene.

So, if you’ve rented a house in Italy, it’s better you start to decorate it.

The most popular decorazioni casalinghe – home decorations – for Italians are Christmas trees and Nativity cribs.

However, some Italians also add other decorations such as piccoli pupazzi di neve – small snowmen – fiocchi di neve – snow flakes – palle di Natale – Christmas balls – luci di Natale – Christmas lights – ghirlande natalizie – Christmas garlands – candele natalizie – Christmas candles – angeli – angels, etc.

At the same time as Italians start to decorate their homes, they also start to meticulously search for i giusti regali – the right presents.

However, some Italians do not have time for this, and find themselves to choose presents at the very last time. So, la corsa ai regali – the rush for presents – begins.

Ah, if you have children, just remember that in Italy it’s Gesù Bambino – Baby Jesus – or Babbo Natale – Father Christmas – who bring presents, not Santa Claus.


From this point on, Italian Christmas traditions can differ from region to region and even from city to city.

The only certainty is that for Italians Christmas is the day of love, family, and…food.

For some Italians the dinner of December 24 is very important. You spend it with your family and you don’t eat any meat, only fish.

For some other Italians, instead, the dinner of December 24 is not so important but it must be light anyway. That’s essential if you want to be ready for the incredibly large lunch of December 25.

Whatever the tradition, however, after dinner the majority of Italians go to messa di mezzanotte – midnight mass service.

Some Italians, however, prefer to attend the mass service on December 25, in the morning, especially if they have children.

Italians usually spend the 25 of December with their family, chatting, playing games and eating a very long lunch.

Christmas menus change from region to region. Some of the dishes Italians usually eat are crostini con pâté – crostini with liver pâté – cotechino – a sausage made from pork meat mixed with other ingredients – agnello – lamb – torrone – nougat – panettone – a cake filled with raisins and candied fruit – and pandoro – another typical Italian Christmas cake.


Wait, are you asking me when Italians open i regali – Christmas presents?

Well, it depends from region to region. Some Italians open presents soon in the morning of December 25, some others, instead, wait until after lunch.


Ah, remember also that festivities in Italy don’t end on December 25. Italians celebrate also December 26, December 31, and January 1.

However, the official end of the Italian Christmas season is January 6, with the arrival of la befana!

That’s all for today. Buone Feste a tutti!


Did you know these Italian Christmas traditions? What about you? How is Christmas celebrated in your country?


Original image by suju

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