Welcome To Christmas Around The World
Learn How Other Children Celebrate Christmas From Different Countries!
Say Merry Christmas in Italy
Italian - Buon Natale
Sicilian - Bon Natali
The popularity of the Nativity scene, one of the most beloved and enduring symbols of the holiday season, originated in Italy. St. Francis of Assisi asked a man named Giovanni Vellita of the village of Greccio to create a manger scene. St. Francis performed mass in front of this early Nativity scene, which inspired awe and devotion in all who saw it. The creation of the figures or pastori became an entire genre of folk art.
In Rome, cannon are fired from Castel St. Angelo of Christmas Eve to announce the beginning of the holiday season. A 24-hour fast ends with an elaborate Christmas feast. Small presents are drawn from the Urn of Fate.
The main exchange of gifts takes place on January 6, the feast of the Epiphany, the celebration in remembrance of the Magi's visit to the Christ Child. Children anxiously await a visit from La Befana who brings gifts for the good and punishment for the bad. According to legend, the three wise men stopped during their journey and asked an old woman for food and shelter. She refused them and they continued on their way. Within a few hours the woman had a change of heart but the Magi were long gone. La Befana, which means Epiphany, still wonders the earth searching for the Christ Child. She is depicted in various ways: as a fairy queen, a crone, or a witch.
Italian traditions in Italy are based heavily on the religion of Christianity. Christmas starts eight days before Christmas and lasts till after the Feast of Epiphany. Musical salutes are made at the shrine of the Virgin Mary and songs are played at the homes of carpenters in honor of St. Joseph. Eight days before Christmas, a special Novena of prayers and church services begin. It all ends on Christmas Day.
On December 23rd, sometimes earlier, children dressed as shepherds with sandals, leggings tied with crossing thongs, and wearing shepherds’ hats, go from house to house playing songs on shepherds’ pipes and giving recitations. They receive money to buy Christmas treats. In cities like Rome real shepherds sometimes carry out the performance. A strict fast is observed 24 hours before Christmas after which a meal with many dishes (but no meat) is served. The traditional Christmas dinner, Cenone, is made up of spaghetti and anchovies, an assortment of fish, fresh broccoli, tossed salad, fruits, and sweets.
A Yule log, the Ceppo, is burned, and toasts in wine and wishes for the future are expressed. The Urn of Fate, an old Italian tradition, is a large ornamental bowl that holds wrapped gifts for members of the family. When the family gets together, each member takes his turn at drawing a gift from the urn until all the presents are distributed.
From the Castle of Saint Angelo in Rome a cannon is fired to proclaim the opening of the Holy Season. Each tries to outdo the other by displaying the biggest presepio.
No meat is eaten for twenty-four hours before Christmas Eve, but there follows a meal as big as the family can afford. A special New Year Banquet is eaten on the last day of the year, with raisin bread, turkey, chicken, rabbit, and spaghetti. Champagne is the drink of the evening.