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The Language of Christmas, Italian Style


Christmas in Sicily

If you are heading to Italy this Christmas season or already here, then you must be wondering where the little things that make up Christmas are? Those little traditions and treats that you know as a sign of Christmas time. Well, think again as here in Italy things are done a little differently. Of course each country celebrates differently so here is your quick guide to the language of Christmas - Italian style.



Buon natale is the way to wish others a Merry Christmas.

Let's start at the beginning however. December 8th is celebrated for the immaculate    conception, il giorno dell'Immacolata Concezione (l'Immacolata) of Mother Mary or Maria as she is here. Joseph, or Giuseppe the carpenter or falegname.

The nativity scenes or presepe are set up but baby Jesus, Gesù bambino is not placed out until Christmas Eve. For others, a Christmas Tree, l'albero di Natale is set up with the usual baubles, palline and lights, luci.


Christmas Eve, la vigilia di Natale, is the evening in which Italian families unite at home around 8pm and have a late dinner, la cena often featuring fish or seafood, stretching into the late night where at midnight, mezzanotte, prosecco is shared as is a birthday cake, la torta celebrating the birth of Jesus. Some families attend midnight Mass, la messa at the church, la chiesa.

Father Christmas, Babbo Natale brings gifts, i regali and they are exchanged. Board games like tombola or cards are played in the more traditional homes, tv off and simplicity in abundance.


Christmas Day, il giorno di Natale brings more family gatherings for Christmas lunch, pranzo di Natale. Foods differ slightly across regions but some form of panettone, pandoro and sweet torrone are consumed. To celebrate, festeggiare is usually within the family.


Boxing Day or il giorno di Santo Stefano on December 26th is often a recovery day for many in Northern Europe and North America but the Italians have another day within the family and a day off but certainly involves food marking part of the Catholic festive season. They do not recognise this day where the rich make boxes of food for the poor.

The end of the Christmas season is on January 6th. The traditional night ritual on January 5th see parents filling stockings, delle calze with nothing. In the morning children wait eagerly to see if the witch, la befana has brought little gifts and sweets signifying they’ve been good or black carbon if they have been cheeky or bad! The day of January was marked as a red day, a public day off, il giorno di ferie but in recent years this tradition is being forgotten.

For a wonderful Christmas season in Europe with traditions, simplicity and sun, book your holidays directly with us at the hotel. We are waiting for you!

The perfect way to practice your Italian!

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