Milan or Rome? All you need to know about Festive traditions in Italy

Italy is always a wonderful country to visit, even more so during the festive season, when music concerts, Christmas markets, religious celebrations, and gourmet eating are the order of the day.

December 13, 2018

Christmas is, without a doubt, a big deal in Italy. The Christmas season officially starts in Italy on December 8th, the Feast of the Immaculate Conception. Most Italians decorate their homes and trees, exchange gifts, bake cakes, and formally close schools and offices on this day. The holiday atmosphere grows ever more intense from this day through the 26th, with street decorations and huge Christmas trees on display. Christmas celebrations last for 3 days in most Italian homes, from the 24th through the 26th.

Caption: Photo Credits: Valeria Rocca

Christmas in Rome

Thanks to the city’s deep Catholic roots, Christmas remains an important tradition for most Romans. From universal practices like home decorations and adorning public areas with nativity scenes to less popular customs like La Befana, here is how you can celebrate Christmas in the City of the Seven Hills:

1. Kick off the festivities on December 8th

Unlike in the US or UK where the Christmas season tends to begin earlier, Italy has a pretty fixed calendar. In Rome, lights and decorations begin to appear around the beginning of December. However, it is the Immaculate Conception on December 8th that ushers in the festive season.

2. Check out the best Christmas decorations

Every year, travelers flock to Rome for the opportunity to enjoy the nativity scenes and gigantic Christmas trees that decorate the city. This is a great time to visit ancient churches and museums, where you will be mesmerized by the grandeur of the nativity scenes. You can delve into the tradition of Italian nativity scenes by visiting the annual nativity crib exhibition. Remember to visit the Piazza Venenzia or St. Peter’s Square for spectacular Christmas trees.

Caption: Photo Credits: okoxygen

3. Visit Piazza Navona Christmas market

At its best, the Piazza Navona Christmas market is defined by rows of stalls that sell festive decorations, handmade gifts, old-fashioned carousel, sweet gifts, and twinkling Christmas trees. However, in typical Roman fashion, it is often unclear which vendors are licensed to trade. Thus, the size and content of this market can vary. That said, your Christmas in Rome is never complete without a visit to the Piazza Navona to sample what is in store this year.

Christmas in Milan

Christmas in Milan is more than beautiful – it is the perfect place and season for your dream shopping experience! One of the world’s top shopping destinations, Milan brings the holidays to life with miles of unique boutiques, designer stores, and outdoor markets, making it the ultimate destination for getting through your shopping list. From holiday museum hours to Christmas markets, here are the top ways to enjoy your Christmas in Milan.

1. Christmas markets in Milan

The festive season in Milan starts on December 7th, better known by the natives as St. Ambrogio, Milan’s patron saint. This season in Milan opens with the “O Bej O Bej” Christmas market (an expression in the Milanese dialect that translates to “oh how nice!”). As has been the case for centuries, traders set up their stalls in front of Castello Sforzesco, where they sell everything from handmade goods to local delicacies like panettone (a sweetened Christmas bread).

Caption: Photo Credits: Shiryu Musashi

2. Celebrate Christmas like the Milanese

In preparation for Christmas Day, Italian families have the tradition of enjoying a multiple-course fish dinner before attending a midnight Mass. The Archbishop presides over a vigil Mass at the Duomo beginning at 11:30 pm. You can also celebrate Mass at the churches of Santa Maria delle Graze and Sant’ Ambrogio.

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