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Italian Christmas Traditions

1. A month of festivities
We’ve all got that one friend who wants to put on the Christmas music and dig out their reindeer jumper in September, and if you are that friend, you’ll feel right at home in Italy where the festive season stretches out for almost a full month. Italians get into the Christmas spirit on December 8th when they celebrate the Immaculate Conception. On this day, many Italian homes and towns first put out their decorations, while a cannon is fired from Rome’s Castel Sant’Angelo to mark the start of the celebrations, and the season continues until Epiphany on January 6th, when the Three Wise Men arrived in Bethlehem, something which is re-enacted by horsemen in Rome’s Piazza Navona.

2. Bagpipers and bingo In Italy
In southern Italy and Rome, bagpipe-playing shepherds, or zampognari as they are known, perform tunes in piazzas, normally dressed in traditional sheepskin and wool cloaks. The pipers usually travel in pairs down from their mountain homes and it is quite a spectacle. Across the country, although once again particularly in the south, it’s very common to play tombola, an Italian game similar to bingo, throughout the winter holiday.

3. Plenty of food
Food is an integral part of Italian culture and that’s more true than ever at Christmas. December 24th was traditionally a day of fasting before Christmas for Catholics, with festivities starting only after the evening mass. This is still observed in some families, and the evening meal, known as the ‘Feast of Seven Fishes’, is usually based on seafood rather than meat. Clams and oysters are often used as they are seen as luxurious.

On Christmas Day, the food that makes up the Cenone (literally meaning ‘big dinner’) varies from region to region, but meat is normally back on the menu, often accompanied by pasta. The meal is followed by panettone, a sweet bread loaf originating from Milan, and other desserts filled with nuts, which were historically a symbol of fertility for the coming year.

4. La Befana
Although nowadays many children receive presents from Father Christmas on Christmas Eve, a uniquely Italian tradition is that of ‘La Befana’, the old woman who brings gifts on Epiphany Eve. Legend has it the Three Wise Men came to her house and invited her to join their search for Christ. She was too busy with housework so declined, but later changed her mind, and to this day is still searching for the child, leaving presents for any good children she comes across.

Source: The Local IT