Christmas in Italy
Christmas in Italy is a magical holiday, and the traditions surrounding it are rich in meaning and beauty. Numerous traditions in Italy during the Christmas season bring a sense of magic and joy: from the Christmas tree to the nativity scene, the bagpipers, and culminating in the Christmas Eve and Christmas Day dinners, making this period the most anticipated and special of the year.
Discover Christmas traditions in Italy, start to smell festive culinary specialties' aromas, and try making mostaccioli following our recipe, bringing a bit of Christmas to your home!
Christmas in Italy: The Most Beautiful Christmas Trees and the Magic of the Holidays
One of the most beloved traditions is the setting up of Christmas trees, adding a touch of magic and color to cities throughout the country. Each city has its special tree, representing the pride of the local community. Although traditionally the tree is decorated on December 8th during the Feast of the Immaculate Conception, each city has its own tradition: in Bari, the tree is adorned on December 6th for the feast of the patron saint, San Nicola, while in Milan, it's on December 7th for Sant'Ambrogio.
Among the most beautiful trees in Italy, some stand out:
Rome in St. Peter's Square - Every year, the Vatican receives a tree as a gift from any part of the world. For 2023, the high Maira Valley in the province of Cuneo will donate a white fir about 25 meters tall, adorned with thousands of alpine stars.
Gubbio - A luminous installation on the slopes of Mount Ingino composed of 300 green light sources outlining the tree and multicolored lights for decorations, arranged over more than 750 meters in height.
Milan - In Piazza Duomo, the Games Tree will be set up, decorated with symbols of the Olympics and Paralympics, including Italian Winter Olympic medals.
These majestic trees, adorned with sparkling lights and festive ornaments, transform squares into enchanted places where families gather to admire their splendor and share the warmth of the holidays. The tradition of Christmas trees is a true symbol of the magic and unity that characterize the Christmas season in Italy.
Christmas in Italy: Nativity Scenes, a Popular Art that Tells the Nativity Story
Nativity scenes are a beloved folk art in Italy, true works of art that depict the nativity scene with great attention to detail. Figures of the Baby Jesus, the Madonna, St. Joseph, and angels are crafted skillfully, using materials such as terracotta, wood, or ceramic. Each Italian region has its distinctive features when it comes to nativity scenes, reflecting local culture and tradition.
Via San Gregorio Armeno It is the world capital of nativity scenes, a street where artisans exhibit their works throughout the year, but it is during the Christmas season that this street takes on a special charm.
Sand Nativity was born in 2004 when members of the Sand Academy created one of the most beautiful nativity scenes in Italy. The great success of the sand nativity scene attracted the attention of hundreds of thousands of visitors and faithful, prompting the Municipality of Rimini to contribute to support this beautiful initiative.
Living Nativity Scene - The entire Sassi district transforms into the world's largest living nativity scene during the Christmas season: over 300 extras bring the nativity scene to life with a backdrop that is unique in the world.
Christmas in Italy: Bagpipers, Custodians of a Unique Christmas Musical Tradition
Bagpipers are true custodians of a unique Christmas musical tradition in Italy. These traditional musicians play an instrument called a bagpipe, a type of double-reed instrument.
During the Christmas season, bagpipers perform in the streets and squares, bringing with them the magic and atmosphere of the holidays. Their traditional melodies evoke ancient rural origins and are connected to Christmas celebrations. Their presence is highly appreciated and anticipated, as the energy and passion with which they play evoke deep emotions in people's hearts. Bagpipers represent a link to the cultural and historical roots of Italian Christmas, conveying a sense of warmth and tradition during this special holiday.
Christmas in Italy: The Christmas Eve Feast, a Lavish Celebration to Celebrate Christmas in Italy
The Christmas Eve feast is a significant culinary tradition in Italy and represents a moment of great joy and sharing for Italian families. This abundant celebration takes place on the night of December 24th and includes a meal rich in traditional dishes and culinary delights. The table is set with a variety of courses, including appetizers, first courses, meat and fish-based main courses, side dishes, and Christmas sweets.
Each Italian region has its culinary specialties, making the Christmas Eve feast a unique moment to discover the gastronomic diversity of the country. During this celebration, families gather around the table, exchange greetings and stories, and enjoy a warm and festive atmosphere.
Christmas in Puglia
Christmas in Puglia is a unique opportunity to discover this beautiful region from a different perspective: typical historic centers adorned with lights and large Christmas trees, bagpipers filling the air with festive music, markets, and traditions that will make your alternative holiday in Puglia unforgettable.
In Bari, during the Christmas season, enchanting celebrations combine centuries-old traditions and deep devotion to Saint Nicholas. Every year on December 6th, the city transforms into a whirlwind of celebrations in honor of the patron saint of Bari and the icon of Santa Claus worldwide. The doors of the Basilica, illuminated by flickering candles, open on the night between December 5th and 6th to welcome devotees from all over who come to pay homage to Saint Nicholas. The atmosphere in the old town of Bari is magical, with Christmas lights and decorations creating a warm and enchanted atmosphere. The irresistible scents of hot chocolate and sgagliozze waft through the streets, adding a touch of sweetness to this traditional celebration.
Alberobello, a picturesque town in the heart of Puglia, transforms into a magical Christmas village during the holidays. The charming Christmas markets held here are an experience not to be missed. Cobblestone streets fill with stalls adorned with sparkling and colorful lights, offering a wide selection of handmade products and unique gifts.
You can immerse yourself in Puglian tradition, discovering local delicacies such as fried panzerotti, pettole, sweet crepes, and much more. In addition to shopping, you can also enjoy live music performances and savor delicious typical dishes that will add value to this Christmas experience. The Christmas markets in Alberobello will give you a magical and unforgettable atmosphere, making your Christmas even more special.
Polignano a Mare, an enchanting town in Puglia, turns into a true fairy-tale setting during the Christmas season. The streets light up with sparkling lights, and the atmosphere is filled with magic. Visitors can stroll through the historic center, admiring living nativity scenes and suggestive scenery that characterize this holiday. But that's not all: numerous street performers will entertain both young and old, while an enveloping soundtrack will serve as the background to this unique experience.
The retro atmosphere in Polignano a Mare during Christmas will make you feel like you've traveled back in time, giving you the authentic essence of this holiday. Additionally, for the little ones, about 30 cultural and artistic workshops will be organized, allowing them to express their creativity and experience Christmas in an even more special way. Polignano a Mare is the ideal place to spend an unforgettable Christmas, amidst lights, magic, and tradition.
Celebrating Christmas in Italy: The Panettone, a Sweet Symbol of the Holidays
The Panettone is undoubtedly the symbolic sweet of the Christmas holidays in Italy. With its characteristic dome shape and irresistible aroma, Panettone is a must on the Christmas table for many Italian families. Prepared with high-quality ingredients such as flour, butter, eggs, raisins, and candied orange peel, this leavened sweet bread is loved by both adults and children.
Pandoro, a Simple and Tasty Delight
This Christmas delicacy is a soft and light sweet, with a star-shaped form and a soft texture. Pandoro stands out for its delicate taste and simplicity, making it a true delight for the palate. It is often served dusted with powdered sugar, giving it an elegant and festive appearance.
Torrone, a Christmas Classic Perfumed with Markets and Festive Atmosphere
Torrone is another classic Christmas sweet that carries the scent of markets and festive atmosphere. This Italian treat is known throughout the country for its crunchy texture and irresistible flavor. Torrone is primarily made from toasted almonds and honey, mixed together to form a sweet and sticky mass. Traditionally prepared at home during the Christmas holidays, it can also be found in Christmas markets, where its inviting aroma blends with the festive atmosphere.
Soft Mostaccioli: A Puglian Sweet to Indulge in During the Holidays
Soft mostaccioli are a traditional sweet from the Puglia region, much loved during the Christmas season. Unlike crunchy torrone, mostaccioli are soft to the bite and have a texture similar to freshly baked cookies. These sweets are prepared with a base of flour, sugar, honey, and flavors such as cinnamon, cloves, and orange zest.
The dough is worked until it reaches an elastic consistency, which is then shaped into small cylindrical or diamond forms. After baking, mostaccioli are often decorated with a sugar and chocolate glaze. These sweets are a true delight for the palate and are perfect for indulging and enjoying moments of sweetness during the Christmas holidays.
Mostaccioli - The Recipe:
- 1 kg Flour 00
- 600 g Vincotto (cooked wine)
- 500 g Almonds (toasted)
- 200 g Sugar
- 100 g Extra virgin olive oil
- Lemon zest (as needed)
- 10 g Baker's ammonia
- 50 g Unsweetened cocoa powder
- Dark chocolate chips (optional)
To prepare Puglian Mostaccioli, start by coarsely chopping the almonds. Heat 200 g of vincotto and dissolve the baker's ammonia in it.
In a large bowl, sift the flour and cocoa, then add the oil, sugar, ammonia dissolved in vincotto, grated lemon zest, chocolate chips, and the remaining vincotto.
Knead all the ingredients until you get a dough. Transfer the dough to a floured surface and shape it into a cylinder, slightly flattening the surface.
Cut pieces about 5-6 cm in length, then, if you prefer, sprinkle them with sugar.
Preheat the oven to 200°C and bake the mostaccioli for about 15 minutes. Once baked, let them cool completely, then store them in a tin box or an airtight container.
(Recipe from GialloZafferano)