In Italy, Christmas celebrations begin 8 days before Christmas day with a period known as the Novena, which is a series of prayers. During this time children dress up as shepherds, and go door to door singing, reciting poems and playing pipes and the householders give them money.
The man decoration is the nativity scene (presepio) and these are found in homes, shops and public squares. Sometimes the baby Jesus is not added to the scene until Christmas Eve.
On Christmas eve, people go to Midnight Mass, and afterwards the family gets together for a meal of fish or seafood. In some small towns, especially in the mountains, bonfires are lit (the Luminari) to keep baby Jesus warm.
One last Christmas Eve tradition is the Urn of Fate. Inside the urn are boxes for everyone in the family. If it has their name on, they open it; if not they put it back in. Some of the boxes contain small gifts, and some are empty, although there is at least one gift for everybody. Family members take it in turns to draw a box out of the urn.
On Christmas Day they have another special meal (there is no set Christmas meal in Italy – it differs from region to region) and Christmas cake (panettone).
The main day for receiving presents is January 6th. During the night of the 5th January, La Befana, a kindly witch, flies around on her broomstick leaving presents for the children.
Happy Christmas in Italian is Buon Natale and Father Christmas is Babbo Natale.
Related posts: Who or What is La Befana? How do they celebrate Christmas in Spain? How do they celebrate Christmas in France? How do they celebrate Christmas in Greece? How do they celebrate Christmas in Germany? How do they celebrate Christmas in Denmark?