An Italian Christmas!

December is more than just Christmas in Italy. There are plenty of other dates to celebrate, which makes this whole festive season so special!

8th December: L’Immacolata Concezione – This is the celebration of the Immaculate Conception, where Italians attend a church mass to honour Mary, whom they believe is immaculate, or “free from sin”.

13th December: La Festa di Santa Lucia – St. Lucy’s Day. On this day it is traditional to eat whole grains instead of bread, which normally takes the form of cuccia,  a dish of boiled wheat with berries,ricotta and honey.  This can also be served as a savory soup with beans instead.

24th December: La Vigilia di Natale – Christmas Eve. In some places in Italy, Christmas Eve dinner would be a light meal with no meat, but you may find differences around the country.  This is then typically followed by attending Midnight Mass.

25th December: Natale – Christmas Day. Most people in Italy exchange gifts on Christmas Day with children hoping that they will find presents under the tree from Babbo Natale. It’s also traditional for children to receive a stocking, la calza, colourful, long socks full of sweets, i dolciumi, if they’ve been good. If they’ve been naughty, they might receive coal, il carbone, which is made of black sugar.

Food is very important to Italians, and even more so on Christmas Day. Lunch, il pranzo, is the most important of all the Christmas feasts and can last a long time.  If you were in Italy, you could expect to eat Pasta in brodo—pasta in broth, which could be filled with either meat or pumpkin to start. Eel used to be a common main course, but now it’s more common to see turkey on the menu.  To finish the meal, you might expect to eat some sweet bread dessert, like panettone or pandoro.  Other desserts include cavallucci, which are cookies with the image of a horse, dita degli apostoli, which are chocolate- or coffee-flavored ricotta-filled omelettes, or  mostaccioli, spiced nut pastries that were popular with the Romans.

26th December: La Festa di Santo Stefano – St. Stephen’s Day .  After spending Christmas Day indoors with their family, today is a day where people wrap up warm and go outside with friends and family. It is popular to pay a visit to some of the living nativity scenes staged in many Italian towns, like the one in the Abruzzese mountain town of Fara San Martino, where locals gather in the main piazza for a re-enactment of the nativity.

Why not give learning Italian a try?  You can also have a go at singing along to ‘Astro del ciel’, Italian version of ‘Silent Night’!

Astro del ciel, Pargol divin, mite Agnello Redentor!
Tu che i Vati da lungi sognar, tu che angeliche voci nunziar,
luce dona alle genti, pace infondi nei cuor!
luce dona alle genti, pace infondi nei cuor!
Astro del ciel, Pargol divin, mite Agnello Redentor!
Tu di stirpe regale decor, Tu virgineo, mistico fior,
luce dona alle genti, pace infondi nei cuor!
Luce dona alle genti, pace infondi nei cuor!
Astro del ciel, Pargol divin, mite Agnello Redentor!
Tu disceso a scontare l’error, Tu sol nato a parlare d’amor,
luce dona alle genti, pace infondi nei cuor!
Luce dona alle genti, pace infondi nei cuor!



Kim is the Social Media Specialist for Europe at Rosetta Stone. She is from the UK but spent time growing up in Burma, Morocco, Thailand and Hong Kong. She loves travel and has just started learning Spanish with Rosetta Stone. If you want to learn a language too, try a free Rosetta Stone demo.

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