Read about the origin, history and celebration of Christmas (Natale) in Italy.
Fundoo Times: Festivals: Christmas: Christmas in Italy

Christmas in Italy

Origin and History of Christmas in Italy

Even before the present Christmas celebration, ancient people used to welcome the winter by celebrating festivals with different names. From historical records it is known that today’s Christmas originated from ancient festivals such as Pagan and Saturnalia, predating the Christmas era. Saturnalia, the greatest festival of ancient Romans coincides with the Christmas celebrations of the Advent. The present day activities of the Italian Christmas such as Christmas fairs, entertainment, feasts etc are done not only to honor Jesus Christ but to also celebrate the birth of the sun.

Local name: Natale

Ways to celeberate Natale in Italy

Christmas season is the biggest festive season of Italy which starts eight days before the Christmas on Novena. In Italy the start of the Christmas season is announced by the cannon firing sound. During this season children dressed up as shepherds go from house to house singing and reciting Christmas poems and carols. In return to their singing they get money to buy presents. Christmas tradition in Italy is based strongly on the Christian religion. Almost all people decorate their home a week before the celebration. The nativity scene plays a very important role in Christmas decoration as it originated from Italy. People in Italy observe a 24 hour strict fast before Christmas and end it by consuming rich food. Christmas food in Italy is really colorful and delicious. On Christmas Eve the dinner consists of rich food but excludes meat as it is permissible to eat meat only on Christmas day. Even though the menu for the Christmas varies from one region to another, the most common food items are pasta, lasagna, cannelloni and pizza. After food the next important part of Christmas is gifts. People exchange gifts on this day to show their love and care for their dear and near ones. Children wait till Epiphany for their presents from an ugly witch Befana. The customs associated with Christmas vary from one place to another as Italy is a major Christian country with rich traditions.