6 Events that Prove December Is Italy’s Most Festive Month
Italians definitely know how to celebrate the holidays! While there are countless events held across the country all year long, December is by far the most festive month. Centuries of tradition and a fondness for celebration make December in Italy jam-packed with events. Today, we’re going over six of the most festive events for December in Italy.
St. Ambrose Day (Sant’Ambrogio), December 7th
Despite only being celebrated around Milan, St. Ambrose Day marks the start of the Christmas season in Italy. Milan’s patron saint has a whole Christmas market held in his honor. The “O bej O bej” fair is set up on the grounds of the Sforzesco Castle. The name is Milanese for “oh so nice! oh so nice!” Which is exactly how patrons react browsing the stalls and stands. This is one of the oldest outdoor Christmas markets in Italy. Here you’ll find stalls selling panettone, roasted chestnuts, and mulled wine. Collectors and gift givers will go nuts for the handmade decorations, toys, antiques, and other knick knacks.
The Immaculate Conception (Immacolata Concezione), December 8th
December 8th is when the conception of the Virgin Mary is observed. This is when Italian families decorate their Christmas trees and set up their nativity scenes. Parades, feasts, and music fill many cities. In the Abruzzo region, they celebrate with bonfires and traditional songs. Rome celebrates with floral wreaths and a ceremony in Piazza di Spagna presided over by the Pope.
St. Lucy (Santa Lucia), December 13th
Santa Lucia isn’t a national holiday, but it’s observed in various cities around Italy with different meanings. In Verona and many cities in northern Italy, St. Lucy replaces the Epiphany that comes on the 6th of January for the rest of the country. On this day, kids receive sweets for good behavior during the year. St. Lucy is also the patron saint of Siracusa in Sicily. The town holds a procession to carry the saint in a golden coffin to the church of Santa Lucia alla Badia.
Christmas Day (Natale), December 25th
It’s not December in Italy without Christmas! Although the celebration of Christmas goes from December 8th-January 6th, on the 24th and 25th Christmas spirit is at its peak. Naturally, Christmas Eve involves dinner with the entire family. Bonfires are usually be held in the town square as well. A huge lunch is a must on Christmas Day. This is when hearty tortellini in brodo (meat-stuffed pasta in a rich chicken broth) shows up on almost every Italian table. Delicious!
Two of our favorite cities to visit during the Christmas season are Naples and Rome. Naples for its handmade nativity scenes, and Rome for the Vatican’s traditional midnight Mass given by the Pope. Stick around on Christmas Day for his annual message at noon.
St. Stephen (Santo Stefano), December 26th
St. Stephen, the first Catholic saint to be martyred, has his own national holiday on December 26th. Italians will spend the day visiting with their family or friends. They typically go to the movies to see a Christmas film, or admire the nativity scenes on display in town.
New Years (Capodanno) & San Silvestro, December 31st
The New Year, il Capodanno, is a big deal in Italy. Friends and family get together for an unforgettable feast, followed by massive firework displays at midnight. This huge dinner is known as a cenone that will often last late into the night. Prosecco or spumante, end the meal with a toast for the year ahead. Many towns will sponsor public music and dancing before the fireworks begin. Milan, Bologna, Rome, and Naples are just four of the cities that put on popular outdoor shows.
Have you found yourself at one of these events during your travels? Did we miss one? Let us know in the comments below.