Christmas season in Italy is traditionally celebrated from December 24 to January 6, or Christmas Eve through to Epiphany, which is often referred to as the Twelve Days of Christmas. If you're traveling to Italy during this festive season, you're certain to run into a variety of special events, celebrations, and holiday markets throughout the country.
One of the most famous of these Christmas Markets, is the one in Rome. It is known as a Mercatino di Natale della Befana, and is on the Piazza Navona. There is a festive atmosphere, with stalls holding traditional sweets and foods (for example le castagne e il panettone) and gifts for everyone.
Another important feature of Christmas is Babbo Natale (Father Christmas, or the equivalent of Santa Claus) makes the rounds on the night before Christmas, but another important day for gift-giving is Epiphany on January 6. It's the 12th day of Christmas when the three Wise Men gave Baby Jesus their gifts. In Italy, presents are brought by a friendly old witch named La Befana, who arrives in the night to fill children's stockings.
Christmas trees, lights, and decorations are often seen starting around December 8, the Feast Day of the Immaculate Conception, or even the end of November. The main focus of decorations continues to be the presepe, a Nativity scene or creche. Almost every church has a presepe, and they are often found outdoors in a piazza or public area, too.
Traditionally, a fish dinner is eaten on Christmas Eve with the family, followed in many places by a living nativity scene and midnight mass. Traditional bonfires are often held on Christmas Eve in the main square of the town, especially in mountain areas. Dinner on Christmas day is usually meat-based.
Now, here is some useful Christmas Vocab in Italian: