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MAIN Arrow to Christmas Christmas Arrow to Christmas in Europe Europe Arrow to Christmas in Italy Christmas in Italy

Buon Natale - Merry Christmas in ItalyAt the center of a festive Italian Christmas is ... "faith, food, and family."

A major highlight of holiday religious devotion is the Christmas nativity crib, or presepe, depicting the night in Bethlehem when Jesus was born. It is often an elaborate scene including the Magi and a host of heavenly angels, and a fixture in many homes and churches.

Elsewhere, Italy is ablaze with the sights, sounds and smells of Christmas with music provided by the zampognari, or pipers, who are traditionally seen performing in such places as Rome or in Naples's Christmas markets.

And then, of course, there is the food. A wonderful tradition in some areas is the Christmas Eve dinner consisting entirely of fish, a substantial meal accompanied by pasta, along with traditional Christmas treats such as panettone or pandoro cake, and struffoli, a sweet confection of friend dough soaked in honey.

Le Befana

Le Befana, The Christmas Witch
Le Befana, the
Christmas witch

Le Befana is the old Christmas witch who has become the female counterpart to Santa, delivering extra candy and gifts to children who are good, and coal to those who are bad.

As legend has it, Le Befana was asked by the Three Magi for directions to Bethlehem. Upon hearing the story of Christ's birth, she was invited to accompany the wise men, but refused.

Later regretting her decision, Le Befana now atones for her mistake by flying on her broomstick to deliver gifts & toys to Italy's children on the very day that honors the Magi, the Feast of the Epiphany on January 6th.

In an amusing tribute, the now-famous Befana regatta race features professional oarsmen - dressing up in wigs and old dresses - to race around Venice canals in an annual tradition which takes place on January 6.


More about Christmas in Italy around the Web:

Christmas in Italy
- Here's a wonderful account of Christmas traditions observed in Rome, with related photo gallery and a link to more on the Italian St. Nicholas.

Italian Christmas Eve : Feast of the Seven Fishes - This is one American family's version of the Christmas Eve feast with menu, recipes and instructions.


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