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Christmas Day in Italy

Many Italians celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ on Christmas Day (Natale) on December 25 each year. It is a public holiday in Italy. 

Is Christmas Day a Public Holiday?

Christmas Day is a public holiday. It is a day off for the general population, and schools and most businesses are closed.

The Nativity scene (presepe) is seen outside many churches in Italy around Christmas.
The Nativity scene (presepe) is seen outside many churches in Italy around Christmas.
©iStockphoto.com/Dieter Hawlan

What Do People Do?

In Italy the Christmas season lasts for a few weeks up until Epiphany. It is common practice for Italian children write letters to Babbo Natale (Father Christmas) asking for Christmas presents. Christmas meals include:

  • Lo zampone (skin of a lower pig leg filled with minced meat)
  • Il cotechino (sausage, similar to salami)
  • Turkey
  • Lamb
  • Tortellini (ring-shaped pasta)
  • Il panettone (fruitcake)
  • Bombardino (a popular drink similar to eggnog)

Another popular Christmas activity is the “urn of fate”, in which presents are put into a lucky dip and there is one gift per person. However, gift-exchanging also occurs on Epiphany.

Public Life

Christmas Day is a national public holiday in Italy. Organizations and businesses that are closed include:

  • Government offices.
  • Post offices.
  • Banks.
  • Schools and other educational institutions.

Transport options, such as taxis, rail services between major cities and major long-route bus lines, are available but travelers are advised to check routes and timetables with the local transport authorities.

Background

Italian Christmas traditions are based on Christianity but are also traced further back to the Pagan celebrations of Pagan celebrations of Saturnalia and Natalis Invicti, pre-dating Christianity. Christmas today is a worldwide celebration among Christians.

Symbols

The presepe (Nativity scene) is often seen outdoors, particularly outside churches. The Nativity scene is popular custom that has spread across to many countries. The Ceppo (a Yule log) is also burnt during Christmas and must stay lighted until New Year’s Day.

About Christmas Day in other countries

Read more about Christmas Day.

Christmas Day Observances

YearWeekdayDateNameHoliday Type
2010SatDec 25Christmas DayNational holiday
2011SunDec 25Christmas DayNational holiday
2012TueDec 25Christmas DayNational holiday
2013WedDec 25Christmas DayNational holiday
2014ThuDec 25Christmas DayNational holiday
2015FriDec 25Christmas DayNational holiday
2016SunDec 25Christmas DayNational holiday
2017MonDec 25Christmas DayNational holiday
2018TueDec 25Christmas DayNational holiday
2019WedDec 25Christmas DayNational holiday
2020FriDec 25Christmas DayNational holiday

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