6 unusual Christmas traditions in Italy

Some of the most interesting traditional events of the peninsula

Are you looking for some curiosities about Christmas? Here: in this article you can find what you were looking for. In fact, I will present some of the main Italian traditions. Here you can find tips and suggestions for spending your Christmas holidays in Italy, as it is one of the most heartfelt moments of the year in our country from a religious point of view.

The holiday and its origins

This holiday is of pagan origin and has been celebrated since ancient times. Its celebrations seem to date back to the propitiatory rites that were carried out by the pagan populations to celebrate the beginning of the winter season. The Germanic tribes and the Celts used to celebrate with masked parades on December 22, the day of the winter solstice. The Romans instead celebrated the Saturnalia on December 17th. On this occasion large bonfires were lit in honor of the sun. With the advent of Christianity, however, the date of the celebrations was moved to December 25th.

The celebrations with fire in Liguria and Tuscany

Just think: even today, in some areas of the peninsula, traditional celebrations are held that involve the use of fire. The two most interesting Italian traditions in this regard are those of:

  • burn the log in Liguria
  • the rite of fire in the province of Siena.

The first is a tradition dating back to a long time ago and consists in burning a log. It symbolizes what the Doge in ancient times received from the mountain people which he used to put out using confetti and wine. Even today in some cities of the region events are held that celebrate this anniversary.

In short, the second, takes place in the Sienese village of Abbadia San Salvatore in Tuscany. The village is located on Mount Amiata and is called the City of Lights for this particular celebration that takes place among its streets. Everything starts on the 8th of December when a pyramid-shaped wood pile is set up and from which the torches are built, then burnt on the evening of December 24th while  ancient melodies and popular music is played.

La Present giving in the north

Other interesting curiosities about Christmas are those concerning the delivery of gifts. Two of the main figures are those of Santa Claus and the Befana. Many Italian traditions are dedicated to them. In this regard the two most interesting that take place at Christmas in Italy are in Grado in the province of Gorizia and in the province of Bolzano.

Just imagine the figure of the befana changes appearance depending on local customs.

One of the most interesting festivals is the one that takes place in Grado. Here on the 6th of January we can witness the landing of terrible marine witches called varvuole. According to tradition they arrive here on board glass boats to take the naughty children. Every year this is commemorated with the landing of dozens of witches who give way to long celebrations in the streets of the city.

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In Trentino, on the other hand, we remember the figure of St. Nicholas. Christmas is traditionally celebrated on December 6th. One of the most interesting events that recall ancient traditions is that held in the territories of Bolzano. Here a procession of more than 400 diabolical figures, called Krampus, run through the streets of the city of Campo Tures chasing San Nicola. Who with his long white beard protects the children and passers-by.

Let me explain: the event recalls the legend that tells how these creatures were none other than boys who used these masks to become unrecognizable while looting the villages of the valley. The devil took possession of them and they were saved only thanks to the intervention of St. Nicholas who defeated the evil creature.

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Live Nativity scenes

Another tradition that has spread throughout Italy is that of the crib. Its origin is to be traced back to St. Francis of Assisi who established it in the village of Greccio. It consists in the representation through living characters of the event of the birth of Jesus. This custom has spread throughout the nation. Today the two most interesting are those of:

  • Corchiano
  • Gualdo Tadino

First of all the living crib of Corchiano is in the province of Viterbo and consists of a theatrical representation that takes place in the protected area of the natural monument of the Forre. The show can be seen from 25 to 27 December and days 1, 5 and 6 January

The one in Gauldo Tadino is held inside the church of San Francesco in this Umbrian town. It is a crib made by the Franciscan friars and arranged on 200 square meters of wood and cardboard structures that faithfully reproduce the houses and craft shops of a medieval Umbrian Apennine village. Also scattered around the city there are 48 silhouettes depicting contemporary characters in ancient clothes. The closer you get to the church, the more ancient their clothes become  to indicate the time of Jesus.

As you have seen, there are many curiosities about Christmas. Are you ready to celebrate Christmas in Italy? Now you have no more excuses. You just have to pack your bags now that you know what are the most interesting Italian traditions.

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