Christmas traditions in Italy



Just like in any other country in this world Christmas traditions in Italy have a charm of their own. Influenced either by the local culture or by the Italian’s way of preserving or ‚adapting’ Christmas specific customs and rituals, these specific events taking place around the most beautiful part of the year can turn any holiday into amazing moments and later on memories.

Giving presents

Unlike the general custom of giving presents on the 24th of December, also known as the Christmas’ Eve, the Christmas traditions in Italy lay more emphasis on the night of 12th of December, when the three Wise Men gave baby Jesus their gifts (and by thinking twice it makes more sense this way, doesn’t it? ).


The local tradition however has it that the Befana (an ugly witch flying on a broomstick) is the one in charge of bringing present and not Santa Claus (in Italian Babbo Natale). This happens on the the 5th of January when this ugly old lady flies from home to home to fill the children’s stockings. Nevertheless the moralizing story is everywhere the same; La Befana brings sweets and toys to the good kids and coal lumps of coals for the bad ones. The legend has it that in the night when the three Wise Men went to give their gifts to baby Jesus, they met an old lady that they asked to come along with them. The woman first said No, but after having seen a great light in the sky she changed her mind. However she got lost and never found the manger.

Christmas decorations

If you want to visit Italy, please plan at least one of your trips around Christmas. Every “piazza” (square) is embellished with beautiful Christmas decoration and the celebrating atmosphere can be felt at every corner.


One of the best cities to enjoy traditional Italian Christmas is Naples, due to its amazing Nativity cribs exhibited everywhere (please review our Naples articles for more details). Rome is also a perfect destination, as you can have a wonderful time in the joyful Christmas markets and admire the huge Christmas trees. Saint Peter’s Square, in Vatican, in the center of Rome is also one of the best places to visit during this time of the year. The ambiance is absolutely charming, created by the mass of crowd listening to the message the Pope send from the window of his apartment overlooking the square.

No matter where you are in Italy for Christmas, you will go back home with wonderful memories.

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