Christmas in Italy / Blogmas, day 5

Christmas in Italy is a very big deal, it’s probably the biggest holiday. Schools and most offices close the day before Christmas Eve. There are no newspapers on Christmas day and the day after. The only place where you can do some very last minute shopping is at big malls but just for a couple of hours early in the morning.

Christmas in Italy: traditions, decorations, food and more

The holiday season here in Italy actually starts on December 8th. On that day people start putting up Christmas lights and decorations. A lot of Christmas related events start on that day in every major Italian city. But, the best part is that they open all the Christmas markets. I love Christmas markets, even if they all sell the same things and they’re usually super crowded. The holiday season ends on January 6th.

Traditions

Here in Milan we celebrate just on Christmas day. In my family, we usually open our gifts in the morning. Then we have a very long lunch, sometimes it can last until 5 in the afternoon.

Different Italian regions, and sometimes even different cities in the same region, have different Christmas traditions. In Bergamo, which is another city in Lombardy, they get gifts on the 13th of December, the day of Santa Lucia. In Southern Italy, they start celebrating with a big dinner on Christmas Eve and then they also celebrate on Christmas.

Decorations

Along with amazing Christmas trees and elaborate Christmas lights, presepi (nativity scenes) are very common. They even do contests in a lot of cities. So you can find hand carved presepipresepi made of chocolate, and sometimes even living nativity scenes with real people and animals.

Christmas in Milan, Italy

When I was little, we used to make our presepe on our fireplace. My sister and I painted this sky with a lot of stars on a big piece of paper and we used that as a background. We used to buy moss to use as terrain (so accurate for a scene taking place in the desert!). And then we had a lot of model figures that we liked to misplace every day, which made our parents crazy. Nowadays, we just put a wreath outside the door.

Food

Of course food is very important for a nice Christmas celebration. Panettone (originally from Milan) and pandoro (from Verona) are the typical Christmas sweet treat. They can be found just around the holiday season, both in grocery stores (some brands are good, others not so much) and bakery/patisseries (the good stuff). As I told you in my Christmas tag, you don’t eat both panettone and pandoro, but you have to pick a side. Unless you’re like me and you find Italians a bit too obsessed with their food.

Torrone is also something you see a lot around the holiday season. Another typical sweet treat is struffoli, but they are from the South and sadly we don’t get a lot of them here.

After Christmas

The holiday season doesn’t end until the 6th of January. December 26th, Saint Stephen’s day, is another national holiday. Families get together for another round of eating a very long meal. It’s okay to use leftover from Christmas, but, in my experience, most of the times people cook a lot of fresh food again.

The next thing to celebrate is New Year’s Eve. There aren’t that many traditions for that night. It depends a lot on how old you are and what you like to do. Some people go dancing at clubs, which is very expensive. In some major cities there are concerts, but they’re usually outside and very cold. You can find fireworks almost everywhere, even in small town. Of course, the most traditional thing about New Year’s Eve is food and drinks. People usually have lentils, which symbolize good fortune and money, and they also have cotechino, which is a kind of meat.

The last day of the holiday season is the 6th of January, Epiphany. Kids get stockings full of candies from la befana and families get together for yet another lunch (but not as big as the one you have on Christmas day).

What is like Christmas in your country? What is your favorite Christmas tradition? What about food and decorations?

Sarah

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  • A-M Rakk

    In FInland we eat different casserolles and ham, also for a start meal we have salmon and “rosolli” as herringsalad. Those starter dishes are my favorits but I like also carrot-, and potatocasserolle.

  • Sabra of Great Green Heron

    Christmas in the USA starts earlier and earlier every year. Literally. This year I first saw Christmas things in a store on…September 21. It really makes it less special that way.

  • Kitty Limon

    Oh wow I sometimes forget the traditions of other countries but this was a great read 🙂

  • Amazing! Thank you for this! I am in the process of getting dual citizenship with Italy. It’s so nice to hear about the traditions. My grandparents were from Italy (Sicily), but have since passed away. I love hearing how other cultures celebrate the holidays.

  • Katja Knox

    My friend used to date and Italian guy and she was telling me about their family customs. I love the fact that there are so many different ways to celebrate this festive season. The uk and Finland are completely different to this and it’s such a massively enriching thing.
    Katja xxx
    http://www.katnapped.com

  • I live in Greece and we share many traditions from Holiday season duration to food and decoration. I always love hearing the children singing the carols the day before Christmas and New Year. (they go from home to home singing the carols in exchange of some cash and candies or chocolates.)

  • Jasmin N

    Christmas in Italy sounds so wonderful! I’ve got a few Italian friends who’ve been telling me all about it, would love to experience it someday 🙂

    ♥ Jasmin N
    Little Things With Jassy
    Bloglovin’

  • It is on my bucket list to Christmas in Italy again! I did it once as a child and remember it being magical! This made me so excited!!!
    http://beyondblessedblog.com/

  • Everything looks so beautiful! I like how you guys extend the season and shut down for Christmas.

  • Rachel Bee

    Love this post – I adore Italy (we went for two weeks for our honeymoon) and it’s so interesting to see how different things are in different countries.
    Here is England we do Christmas Eve presents (like PJs etc) then presents in the morning of Christmas Day followed by a big dinner. Unfortunately lots of stores open up again on boxing day for the sales, which is a bit of a shame!

  • Such an interesting post! I never thought things were so different in Italy! Here in Quebec, Christmas is celebrated all throughout the month of December. Work parties usually happen in early December, and family ones tend to happen between the 24th and the 31st. It doesn’t have to be celebrated on the 24th or the 25th, though most families try to make it happen on either one of those dates! Parties normally consist of long dinners, but it can change from family to family. Have a wonderful holiday!

  • I want to celebrate Christmas in Italy right now! It is amazing! I am not too far from your country so maybe my dream will come true one day. I love your pics!

  • So far so Sabine

    Of all places! Italy must be the best place to celebrate the Christmas. I’m doing it in Stockholm this year 🙂

  • Ron

    Ah, great to know! Thank you for sharing your kind of Christmas. Oh and I can only imagine the delicious food on Christmas day!

    Ron | Nearby Wanderer

  • I love reading all about other country’s Christmas traditions! I didn’t know you didn’t celebrate Christmas Eve in Italy but that you do have Saint Stephen’s Day. We usually spend the 24th with our close family (parents, siblings) and the 25th with the bigger family (aunts, uncles, grandparents, ..)

  • Totally enjoyed reading about your Christmas traditions! Would love to visit Italy someday 🙂

  • Lynne Harper

    What a fabulous insight into your Christmas traditions. Somewhere I would love to visit but even more so after reading this. Wonderful post

  • I would really love to visit Italy, my friends partner is Italian and his family have an apartment in Italy and they have invited my family and I to go there with them at some point. I’m so excited! That same friend also visited Italian family at Christmas last year and told me she had never seen so much food!
    I enjoyed reading your post, Merry Christmas 🙂
    you can find my blog here http://www.makesbakesanddecor.com if you want to say hello!