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Christmas holidays: some common Italian habits

Every culture and country have their own traditions for Christmas. In Italy, there are some interesting things people do during this time of year. Much depends on the region, even the town, and also on the age of the participants. Here are some typical traditions of Italy we love to enjoy in during the Holidays! Let’s see what you should know about Christmas in Italy.

christmas italy
Christmas market in Bolzano (by AntonioGravante at depositphotos.com)

Christmas Eve

This day is celebrated all over Italy with a cenone, which is very traditional. A common trend among young people is spending the whole day with friends. They wake up late and meet in a coffee shop to chat and celebrate. In the last few years, a lot of cafés and bars have been organizing special events with music and promotions, and people gather there to have a drink and a snack.

Italians usually don’t have a typical lunch on Christmas Eve, they eat a sandwich or something small, because they know that they’ll be having a big Christmas dinner, with a lot of other things to eat and drink, so they want to be ready for the evening.

Most shops are open, so that the last-minute shoppers have an opportunity to purchase presents.

Offices are closed and those that open only do so during the morning. Work is not at its usual fast pace: time is usually spent in a festive atmosphere, often enjoying a slice of panettone or pandoro. The day goes by with staff looking forward to an evening of celebrations with relatives, when all the family sits around the table eating, drinking, and chatting. After dinner, people exchange presents at midnight, while those who are Catholic go to midnight mass. The morning is often spent visiting friends and relatives to wish them a Merry Christmas and to exchange gifts. The food eaten for Christmas lunch differs from town to town. In the evening all over Italy there is a widespread habit of going to the cinema to watch the cinepanettone, which is the typical Italian Christmas comedy.

All in all, our Christmas’ Eve matches that of all those celebrating around the world.

What Italians do for New Year’s Eve

christmas holidays italy
Buon Anno! (by everett225 at depositphotos.com)

New Year’s Eve is one of the favorite times of the year in Italy, as anywhere in the world, and is celebrated by Catholics and non-Catholics.

The way people celebrate New Year’s Eve varies. Those who decide to spend it with family usually have a cenone di Capodanno and then wait for midnight, so they can do the countdown together and celebrate with a toast. Others celebrate with friends and take part in a Veglione di Capodanno either in a club or at a private home.

In the last few years, a lot of restaurants have been organizing special New Year’s Eve events with traditional menus. Many families decide to celebrate this way, so they can be together without wasting the whole afternoon cooking. Popular is also to celebrate New Year’s Eve traveling: foreign or Italian destinations are chosen to spend the most special night of the year having fun. The economical crisis has put a downer on foreign holidays, so Italy, especially the Alps, have become the most common choice.

If one cannot leave home and there are no parties around to join, then it is time to get to your town’s main square: as anywhere in the world, we Italians like to celebrate New Year’s Eve joining everyone’s party in the city centre. A flood of people gather around a stage to watch musicians, singers and TV presenters animate the night. Italians bring a bottle of spumante and have a toast with their friends and ‘neighbors’ in the festive square.

Fancy a slice? The panettone is a must-eat during Christmas in Italy Ph. depositphotos/MKucova

The day of the Befana

Celebrated on January the 6th, the befana is a typical Italian figure, who delivers small presents to kids (usually sweets and small toys) flying on a broomstick.

The day is usually spent in the house with family or in the town centre where it is possible to find a lot of befane entertaining children. This is a bittersweet day for Italians, as with it comes the awareness that the holidays have come to an end and it is time to go back to ordinary life. And wait for another 12 months to live it up once more.

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