Signature Italian Holiday Traditions

Everyone has their own way of celebrating the holidays, but like everything else in Italy, the Italians do Christmas big. Of course, Italy is the home of the Vatican, so come the holiday season, the country is riddled with centuries old traditions. People say Europe is at its best during the month of December because of all the gorgeous decorations, celebrations and festivities, but might I dare say that Italy does it best of all? You be the judge!

Christmas Markets

You can’t turn a corner in Italy without running into a Christmas Market. They usually start up in late November and run through the first week of January. Every town, big or small, that you visit in Italy will have a market unique to its local people and traditions. Christmas Markets are definitely the best place to shop as a tourist during the holidays because you’ll find everything is handmade and specific to that region.

Midnight Mass


The Catholic faith runs very deep in Italy, so of course one of the country’s greatest holiday traditions is holding midnight mass services. The service symbolises the birth of Christ and marks the commencement that Christmas Day has officially begun!  


Skiing is just as much a holiday tradition in Italy as anything else. In fact, in Northern Italy, some people will take to the Dolomite Mountains and ski down the slopes with burning torches to welcome Christmas. Leave it to the Italians to go big.

No Meat on Christmas Eve

Some might argue that Italians are the ultimate carnivores—from meatballs, to veal, to all the cold cuts. But it’s (surprisingly) a tradition to abstain from eating meat on Christmas Eve. A lot of families will substitute fish for the evening on the 24th and then go all out on Christmas Day. The big meal is lunch, but it’s known to last all day.

Caroling and Bagpiping



During the eight days before Christmas, a time known as ‘Novena’, families will take to the streets to sing Christmas carols. Depending where you’re located, you might even see a few bagpipers playing. These musicians will come down from nearby mountain villages to play merry folklore.

Celebrate an Extended Holiday

Image:  Marlene Lee

The celebration of Christmas is of course based on certain religious beliefs, but in Italy it can get much more specific than just celebrating one day. Celebrations really begin on 8 December in Italy because it is the Day of the Immaculate Conception. From there, celebrations continue well past 25th December until 6th January, which is called the Day of the Epiphany, and marks the end of the holiday season.

I don’t know about you, but being in Italy during Christmas sounds like an incredible way to spend the holiday season!

Jennie Hogg