There are a lot of traditional Italian ways to welcome in the New Year. In Naples and southern Italy, it’s loud. People quite literally “ring in” the year, at the stroke of midnight noisily tossing old pots and pans out the window. This tradition dates back to ancient Roman times, when loud sounds and fire were thought to frighten off evil spirits. Today, in Venice, Ferrara, Florence, Rome and many other Italian cities, there remain lovely light shows, and public fireworks displays, and you can see and hear neighbors setting off firecrackers and waving sparklers from terraces, windows and balconies.
In the north, skiers create enchanting light shows in stately processions slowly traversing the slopes in Courmayeur, Valtellina, Val Gardena and other winter resort areas. Another spectacle are the bonfires, called faló del vecchione, popular in Bologna and other northern Italian towns. A sort of out-with-the-old, in-with-the-new ritual, it typically involves burning a large straw figure called vecchione, the old one.
The 12 Days of Christmas fall between two major Christian feasts: the Nativity on Christmas Day and Epiphany, which is celebrated on January 6; in the U.S. Catholic Church, Epiphany is celebrated on the Sunday after January 6 at Mass. The 12 Days build on the Octave of Christmas, which ends on the Solemnity of Mary, Mother of God (New Year’s Day).
Tradition also holds that it likely took the Three Kings, or “Magi,” twelve days to journey to baby Jesus. Jesus, the Son of God, was revealed to them when they arrived. We celebrate this revelation on Epiphany.
12 Days of Christmas in the Catholic Church. The 12 days include the feasts associated with the Octave and four additional celebratory days. In 2022-2023, the liturgical season of Christmas extends another three days until the Sunday after Epiphany, January 8, 2023.
The first day of Christmas is the Nativity of the Lord.
Christmas holidays in Italy start with the Day of Immaculate Conception on December 8th. This Catholic holiday celebrates the conception of the Virgin Mary as free from sin because she was conceived immaculately. Despite the religious nature of this day, many families use this free day to get together and start decorating their Christmas trees.
The festive season then runs until Epiphany on January 6th. That’s when the Three Wise Men arrived in Bethlehem with their gifts for the Baby Jesus.
When it comes to exchanging presents, Italians don’t have a specific day dedicated to that. While some exchange gifts on...