Travels with Marilyn – Holiday Edition – Christmas in Italy

A few years ago, I traveled to Rome and Florence as part of my “Travels with Marilyn” series with House Magazine. I had an incredible time exploring the architecture, art, and antiques of these glorious Italian cities. This year, I’ve been reflecting on my travels and thought it might be fun to share some of the holiday traditions of my favorite cities.

In Italy, Christmas is a huge holiday (not surprising for this very Catholic country). Christmas starts on December 8, the Day of the Immaculate Conception of Mary. Many businesses, as well as government buildings, are closed on December 8 in recognition of the holiday.
Italian cities decorate their public spaces and plazas quite gorgeously in celebration of Christmas. There are lights, garlands, wreaths, and many nativity scenes. It’s fun to wander the streets and take in the holiday spirit!
Eight days before Christmas Day, the Novena begins. There are many carolers out singing, and even bagpipe players in the south of Italy!
On Christmas Eve, Italians typically don’t eat meat (you might already know this, as many Italian-Americans continue this tradition). Christmas Day is filled with family, food, and fun. Some Italians open their gifts on Christmas Day, but most wait until the Day of the Epiphany on January 6. In Rome and Venice, “le befana,” a “good witch” who followed the Wise Men but got lost, drops off gifts for the children on January 6. The Christmas holiday officially ends on January 6, the Day of the Epiphany – this is when Italians begin taking down their decorations and putting them away for next year!

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