Italian Christmas Celebrations & Traditions

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While most families gear up to enjoy Christmas festivities around Christmas Eve and Day, Italian families host a number of celebrations over the course of the entire month. Between December 8th and January 6th, Italians enjoy the Christmas season.

Festivities begin on the 8th with the Feast of the Immaculate Conception. This is a national holiday in Italy during which Christmas trees are put up and decorated. Most importantly, a nativity scene is placed. In northern regions, celebrations begin on December 6th, as this is when St. Nicholas arrives with gifts. Throughout the rest of the month and up until January 6th, Italians celebrate their religious values and spend time with their families. The 6th marks the Epiphany, which is celebrated with a large feast.

On January 6th, Italian children are also visited from la Befana, or the good witch. She is akin to a Santa Claus or St. Nicholas figure, as she leaves candy in good children’s stockings and coal for those who have been naughty.

The nativity scene is another hallmark in Italian Christmases and Christmases for all Christians. Naples is considered the “spiritual home” of the nativity crib, and the city lights and decorations pay tribute to this scene.

Another grand Christmas spectacle in Italy is the sound of bagpipes. Bagpipers play in city streets accompanied by flutes, which represents the shepherds meeting baby Jesus. To stay in accordance with the tradition, the musicians come dressed in sheepskin clothing.

A traditional Italian Christmas dinner always features spaghetti and stays away from meats. However, seafood is another staple of the meal, with salted cod a classic element. The spaghetti usually has a clam sauce as opposed to a traditional red/meat sauce, which lightens up what is, for other parts of the world, a traditionally heavier meal.

Doris Italian Market has everything that you need to kick off your own holiday season. And if you’d like to enjoy Italian dishes at your dinner table this year, you know where to go for authentic ingredients and recipe ideas!

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