Get to know what kind of traditions Italians celebrate in the month of December and learn a few new words in Italian.
On December 1st, Italian children start a brand new Advent Calendar (Calendario dell’Avvento). This is a one page calendar with 24 little windows. The children open one window each day, starting on December 1st. Behind each window there is an image, a word or a little gift for the child. The calendar is meant as a countdown to Christmas Day, so children can visualize how many days are left till Christmas. Children love it, especially little ones who have a hard time understanding the concept of time.
In the city of Milan and nearby areas, December 7th is the Day of St. Ambrose (Sant’Ambrogio), patron saint of of the city of Milan.
On December 8th people celebrate the Immaculate Conception (Immacolata Concezione). It is a national holiday (festa nazionale) and children don’t go to school.
December 13 is St. Lucy’s Day (il giorno di Santa Lucia). St Lucia was a martyr and one of the most illustrious figures in the Christian world. Before the introduction of the Gregorian calendar St. Lucia’s Day fell on the winter solstice. St. Lucia is the patron saint of the city of Syracuse (Sicily), where she was born. The feast of St. Lucy is also celebrated in some parts of North-Eastern Italy where she is said to bring gifts to good children and coal to bad ones the night between December 12 and 13.
December 24th is Christmas Eve (Vigilia di Natale), a day of celebrations commemorating the arrival of baby Jesus. People gather for a dinner feast and then go to Mass just before midnight. During the night between December 24th and 25th, Santa Claus/Father Christmas (Babbo Natale) will bring gifts to the children. Adults, too, exchange gifts as the ancient Romans used to do over 2000 years ago, to celebrate the winter solstice.
December 25th is Christmas Day (Giorno di Natale) and big celebrations are in order. Italian families gather for a traditional lunch and relatives and friends visit each other to exchange holiday wishes and gifts.
December 26th is also a national holiday in Italy. It is St. Stephen’s Day (Giorno di Santo Stefano), the first Christian martyr.
December 31st is not a national holiday, but it is nevertheless a day of great celebrations since it marks the end of the year. New Year’s Eve (Capodanno) is celebrated with a dinner feast and fireworks at midnight.