Christmas traditions in Italy

Christmas time starts in Italy on the Day of the Immaculate Conception, December 8 and lasts till after the Feast of Epiphany on January 6.

On occasion of December 8, decorations go up (both on the streets and inside Italian homes) and we prepare the “Presepe” (Crib) and the Chistmas Tree.

The Presepe is a reproduction of Jesus’ birth surrounded by a wonderful landscape and beautiful statuettes. The tree is usually a fir, real or fake, decorated with colored balls, ornaments and lights.

Christmas in Italy - presepe

Christmas in Italy - presepe

Christmas is the most important holiday in Italy. For us it is time to stay at home, enjoy our family and eat (do not forget we are Italians!) with loved ones.

According to Catholic tradition, the meal for Christmas Eve, (in Italian “La Vigilia”) does not have any meat. It is all fish and vegetables different from region to region.

Christmas in Italy - the Eve

In our region, the Veneto, Christmas Eve dinner can made of:

  • Appetizers as canapés with olives, artichokes, eggplant etc, seafood salad, artichokes hearts or vegetables preserved in oil (best if home made), toasted bread with butter and anchovies, and more
  • First course as “risotto alla pescatora” (seafood risotto) or spaghetti with clams
  • Second course as mixed fried fish and vegetables (artichokes, cauliflower, zucchini, eggplants) oven cooked seabass with potatoes, roasted, baked or fried eel.

After the meal, on Christmas eve, we go to the Midnight Mass and when we come back we eat the Christmas cakes and sweets as panettone, pandoro and torrone (these are always present in every region!):

  • Panettone, originary from Lombardy, is a rich cake containing raisins and candied fruits
  • Pandoro, a buttery cake from Verona characterized by a light, fluffy golden dough and covered by icing sugar
  • Torrone, the most typical of all Christmas sweets, is made with honey and eggs, to which chocolate, almonds or pistachios are added.
Christmas in Italy - panettone

the typical panettone


Christmas in Italy - torrone


The day after we celebrate Christmas by opening the presents delivered during the night by Babbo Natale (Father Christmas) and enjoying Christmas Lunch (Pranzo di Natale)!

On Christmas day, meat is allowed again. Here in Veneto first course is usually lasagne, cannelloni or tortellini in stock, followed by mixed roast beef, zampone (the skin of the lower pig leg including the toe little bones) or cotechino (pig’s foot stuffed with spiced minced meat). To complete it all, we’ll have various types of cheeses, fruits, dried fruits and lots of sweets, everything accompanied by a good wine, red or white, spumante, coffee and spirits.

Christmas in Italy - lunch

But the festivities do not end on December 25… We often extend the celebrations into December 26 (National Holiday of Santo Stefano) when families get together again and eat leftover Christmas dishes and sweets. After 3 days of feast we need a little rest to be ready to celebrate again: the New Year and the Epiphany Feast are coming! The party must go on….

So Christmas time is here and we wish “Buon Natale e Felice Anno Nuovo to everybody!”(Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!).

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