Italian Christmas Traditions and Celebrations
Like most predominantly Catholic countries, Italian Christmas Traditions the festivities for Christmas begin early December. The Feast of Immaculate Conception takes place on December the 8th, and is a national holiday it Italy. As is St. Stephens day, on December 26th.
It is an Italian Christmas Tradition to put out your Nativity Scene and decorate your Christmas Tree on this day. Festivities continue until January with the Feast of the Epiphany. Many Italians will spend Christmas Eve in Church. Catholic influences are still very predominant in Italy’s Christmas Traditions, as Nativity Scenes are very important, a tradition believed to be started by Saint Francis of Assisi.
Similar to other religious cultures, do not eat meat at Christmas. Italians celebrate their Christmas dinner as The Feast of Seven Fishes. One of the most popular Italian Christmas Traditions, which carried over into Italian-American festivities and is common in many part of the USA with Italian roots. Many traditional fishes that may be eaten include, cod scallops, shrimp, Calamari/Octopus, Oysters, Eel or Clams. They may be cooked alone, or included in pasta or salads.
For dessert, some of the Italian Christmas Traditions to eat include Cannoli, Struffoli and Panettone. Many regions have their own special Traditional Italian dessert.
Another part of the Italian Christmas Traditions are that children receive gifts from the good witch (sometimes called The Christmas Witch) La Befana, old, bent and dressed in black. Although this tradition was predominantly limited to Rome and surrounding area, it has become more popular in the last century, and now firmly an Italian Christmas Tradition. La Befana was a widowed, childless woman when the Three Kings passed on their way to see the Christ child. When they asked her the way to Bethlehem she was busy cleaning and sent them away. Realising her mistake, she left to search for the Baby Jesus. To this day she is still searching going from house to house on Epiphany, January 6, leaving a gift for good children.
In modern times, Children may also receive gifts from Santa Claus (in Italian ‘Babbo Natale’), or Baby Jesus himself (in older Italian Christmas Traditions), under the Christmas Tree on Christmas Eve.