Resplendent with celebration, Italian Christmas traditions
triumphantly announce the birth of Christ to the world.

Boom! Boom! Boom! Sound the cannons at the
Castle of St. Angelo.

It is sunset on Christmas Eve, and the holy season has begun in Rome. In just a few hours there is more traffic than on a work day. With over 400 churches ringing their bells, announcing the birth of Jesus, calling the people to Midnight Mass; you can imagine the heavens receiving the praise and the angels joining in, much as they did on that hillside long ago in Bethlehem.

Across the country, in the northern alps of Italy, an amazing site is unfolding. At midnight to announce the Birth of Christ, the Alpine guides from Cortina D Anpizzo, ski down the mountainside carrying flaming torches. As they crisscross over the slopes, they cause the mountain, itself to appear decorated with Christmas lights. This spectacular event is called Fiaccolate delgi Sciatori.

Some of the most popular Italian Christmas traditions have deep historical roots. For example: the presepio (nativity scene) comes to the world from Italy. Around the year 1220, St. Francis of Assisi commissioned the artist, Giovanni, to create the first three dimensional nativity scene. St. Francis even used live animal to create a moo-ving effect for the worshipers. Actually, this was so very well received that in ensuing centuries, the custom spread across the world. The crèche or presepio has become one of the most enduring of Christmas traditions.

In the home a triangular shelf, known as a ceppo. is used to display the presepio.The manger is generally placed upon the lower shelf. The upper shelves are reserved for decorations and small gifts. Across many cities in Italy, the churches compete in preparing the most elaborate presepio. Christmas eve onlookers will travel from church to church to view the displays.

The Christmas season in Italy opens several weeks ahead of Christmas. The Feast of St. Nicholas is celebrated with festivals on Dec.6th. At La Festa di San Nicola, immense pots are filled with beans and cooked over open fires. They are served and enjoyed by all participants.

In the nine days preceding Christmas, many Italian
towns are visited by the Zampognari. These are shepherds who come down from the mountains to play their instruments in the villages to celebrate the season.The piferari fifers travel in pairs, from house to house, playing the zampogna, bagpipes, and the ciramella, flute. In some towns, it is the children of the town who travel from house to house singing carols. In both cases it is customary to reward the singers for their efforts.

At Christmas Eve dinner, the traditional celebratory feast is served. The most unusual dish prepared over the holidays is served in Rome. Capitone a large female eel is served in a variety of ways and enjoyed by all.

The giving of gifts by Babo Natale, Father Christmas, is overshadowed by gift giving on the feast of the Epiphany. The most unique and strangest of Italian Christmas traditions is the legend of La Befana, the gift giver. According to the legend, La Befana the witch had the opportunity to join the Three Wise Men in presenting gifts to the Messiah but refused.She later repented but could not find the Christ child nor the Three Kings. that is why to this day she travels from house to house presenting gifts to all good children on Epiphany’s Eve.

<br><br>Curvy Christmas Lights

Italian Christmas Traditions
Christmas Recipe

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