Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Popular Christmas Traditions and Christmas Decorations in Italy

Author: Karen Jebbia

Italy has many Christmas traditions and customs. Here is a short guide to the popular Christmas traditions and decorations in Italy.
St. Francis of Assisi created the first crèche, or nativity scene, in 1223. Complete with live animals, it made the story of Jesus\' birth come alive. The custom of families and churches erecting manger scenes during Christmas is practiced today. They set up crèches and competition is intense - everyone wants to have the best scene. Families gather at the scenes daily during Novena for praying and lighting candles.

The Christmas season begins around December 8 – the first Sunday of Advent and continues through Epiphany. Cannon fire from the Castle of St. Angelo signals the start of Holy Season. The Novena period is the nine days prior to Christmas until after Feast of Epiphany.

The celebratory days are: the Feast of St. Michael on December 6, Celebration of the Immaculate Conception on December 8, St. Lucy\'s Day on December 13, St. Stephen\'s Day on December 26, New Year\'s Eve on December 31, New Year\'s Day on January 1, and the Feast of the Epiphany on January 6. A popular Christmas decoration during advent is the advent wreath with the first candle being lit on the first Sunday of Advent
Shepherds, called zampognari, dress in customary costumes of leather leggings and sheepskin vests and visit crèches and churches playing Christmas carols on bagpipes and other instruments. Children dress-up as shepherds and sing carols or chant poetry to receive gifts of money.

Yule logs are seen everywhere. Traditionally, these logs were lit and kept burning from Christmas to New Year\'s Day. Italians believed Mary visited homes with Yule logs in an effort to warm baby Jesus.
Most Italians fast on Christmas Eve and then share a celebratory evening meal called cenone. This is a meatless meal featuring many different fish dishes, with dried fruits and sweets for dessert. Some foods featured at Christmas time are: panettone (fruited cake), torrone (nougat candy), panforte (gingerbread or honey cake), almonds, assorted nuts, and honey.

Father Christmas, or Babbo Natale, is not as popular as the legendary witch La Befana. According to legend, the Wise Men stopped at her house on the way to visit the Christ child, asked for directions, and then invited her to join them. She refused, pleading household chores, but later regretted her decision and tried to follow them. She travels from house to house, looking for the Holy Child and leaving presents for the children.

These are just a few of the many splendid Christmas traditions observed in Italy. Popular Christmas traditions and decorations are a part of the rich cultural heritage of this beautiful country.

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About the Author
Lynn Jebbia is the owner of Acadia Wreath Company which sells fresh Christmas wreaths, christmas centerpieces, advent wreaths and kissing balls made with Maine balsam fir and shipped throughout the United States at Christmas time. Visit us at

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