Christmas traditions in Rome (and Italy)

The holiday spirit is everywhere, all throughout the country: Christmas is a major festivity in Italy and there are a lot of traditions that make it unique. We call it “Natale”: not only a very important religious feast day, but also a family-centric holiday, a great opportunity to stay at home with all the loved ones.

The Christmas season officially kicks off with the Day of the Immaculate Conception of Mary, on December 8. Decorations are all around: lights, Christmas trees and nativity scenes both in piazzas, streets and inside homes. There are also Christmas markets, events and a real magic atmosphere. Rome is more charming than ever.

Piazza Venezia (Photo credit: tomasalvarez6916)

Piazza Venezia (Photo credit: tomasalvarez6916)

On Christmas Eve (la Vigilia), we don’t eat meat because we need to purify our bodies. Families have dinner together with vegetables and fish based recipes: like salmon,codfish or shrimps. Someone doesn’t eat anything during the day in order to have dinner earlier and enjoy the evening. After the family dinner, many of us head to midnight Mass at the local church. Many Romans can even go to the Vatican for Mass with the Pope! During the night, Babbo Natale (Santa Claus) brings gifts to children.

Piazza San Pietro (Photo credit: @alessandradisomma)

Piazza San Pietro (Photo credit: @alessandradisomma)

On Christmas Day, we usually spend our time with our family and friends for a lunch that usually goes on the whole day. We eat traditional pasta (like lasagna or pasta in broth), roasted meat and lots of sweets like panettone, pandoro and torrone. Between the lunch and the dinner, we usually play cards or tombola (bingo). We exchange presents and have fun together. Celebrations extend into December 26, with the National holiday of Santo Stefano: lunch, dinner and family time again.


The official end of the Christmas season isn’t until January 6—the Day of the Epiphany: children get sweets (if they have been good during the year) and there are a lot of events for them in Rome.

We love Christmas…And you?

“Christmas waves a magic wand over this world, and behold, everything is softer and more beautiful. ” (Norman Vincent Peale)



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