5 Italian Holiday Traditions
There is something so magical about the Christmas Season in Italy. The streets get strung with beautiful lights in the big cities and the smaller towns. The shops glisten with delectable seasonal pastries and candies. Familiar signs pop-up, selling mulled wine, sumptuously thick hot chocolates and the festivity of the season can be felt all around. Here are five Italian holiday traditions, if you’re missing Italy, try incorporating some of them into your festive season this year!
1. Panettone and Pandoro
There are many debates as to which of these two holiday cakes wins the top prize! Bakers and pastry makers around Italy create delicious and inspired creations that families and loved ones quickly stock up on in order to have a few in the house at all times and to bring them to gatherings to share.
2. Set Up a Nativity Scene
While Christmas trees have gained popularity in Italy, the most important decorating tradition during the holidays has always been the nativity scene. Italians set up presepi with varying degrees of complexity, we’ve seen them with real running waterfalls, moving figurines and many other artistic and festive additions!
3. La Befana
The good Christmas witch known as la Befana brings Italian kids treats or coal which she delivers on January 6, which is Epiphany day. Kids hang out their stockings to wait and see if the Christmas witch has brought them candies or instead ‘coal’ which often comes in the form of a sugary rock candy made to look like coal.
4. Celebrate for a Month!
For Italians the Christmas Season in Italy lasts a whole month, from December 8, the Feast of the Immaculate Conception to January 6, Epiphany. In Italy, Christmas decorations go up on December 8th and from that day forward it’s common to greet and salute people with buone feste, which basically translates to “Happy holidays” The Italians don’t limit their celebrations to Christmas day either, New Years Eve is celebrated and then January 6th marks the day la befana (see above) visits, which is another cause for festivities!
5. Seafood on Christmas Eve
La vigilia as it is called, is the tradition of eating a ‘light’ dinner made up of various fish dishes, including antipasti, primi (pasta dishes), and secondi (main fish dishes). Italians eat a variety of seafood, including clams, octopus and even oysters on Christmas Eve, sticking with the religious tradition of not eating meat before high holidays. Many Italian families observe this tradition, making delicious 6-8 course meals for the 24th of December.