The winter holidays are coming up, and I think we can all agree that it will soon be the most magical time of the year! Festive lights, family celebrations, great food, and time off from school: what could be better than that? Although it is quite common for JCU students to travel home for winter break, some may not get that opportunity or may choose to stay in Rome. Being far from family can be hard, but once you see all that Rome has to offer during the holiday season, you’ll be excited and ready for the festivities to begin!
Here are a few ways you can spend your time during the winter holidays in Rome:
Take a tour of the city’s lights
Around the first week of December you will start noticing decorative lights all over the city. During this magical time, Rome becomes even more beautiful and cozy. Dazzling displays will line the streets, and some are pretty extravagant. Head to Rome’s main shopping district and check out the entire length of Via del Corso strung with colorful lights. You will also see some fancy displays on the luxurious Via dei Condotti. Some more modest (but charming) decorations will be hung around the homey Trastevere alleyways. Make sure to stop by Piazza Venezia, the Colosseum, and St. Peter’s Square to see Rome’s most famous Christmas trees!
Go ice skating
Every December, an outdoor ice skating rink is set up next to Castel Sant’Angelo. It doesn’t stay up for too long, so make sure to take advantage of your winter break and spend an afternoon ice skating in the heart of Rome! Afterward, check out the little Christmas market nearby, close to the bridge.
Attend Christmas mass
One of the most traditional Christmas events in Rome is the annual Christmas midnight mass hosted by the Pope in St. Peter’s Basilica. Hordes of tourists, pilgrims, and locals flock to this religious celebration every year, so it is one of the more crowded holiday activities around Rome. However, it is shown on big screens in St. Peter’s square, so you might be able to catch a glimpse of it. While you’re there, be sure to take a peek at the giant Christmas tree festively adorning the square.
Check out the famous nativity scene in St. Peter’s Square
Nativity displays are set up in various significant spots around Rome throughout the season. Some of them are extremely elaborate! The most famous nativity scene is the nearly life-sized display in St. Peter’s square, which is traditionally completed by adding the baby Jesus on Christmas Eve.
Celebrate a menorah lighting
Although Rome is home to the Vatican–the center of Christianity–it is also home to one of Europe’s largest Jewish communities. Many different Hanukkah celebrations are hosted in the Great Synagogue and throughout the Jewish Ghetto. You can also head over to Piazza Barberini for a huge festival where a giant menorah is lit every night around 6pm, or 4pm on the Sabbath. At the end of Hanukkah there is usually a huge party in the square with food and dancing. A smaller menorah lighting is hosted in Piazza Bologna.
Shop at a Christmas market
For the entire month of December, one of Rome’s busiest and most beautiful piazzas is turned into a renowned Christmas market. Head over to Piazza Navona to get into the holiday spirit! You can enjoy delicious sweets and treats, and do your Christmas shopping. Every year, vendors sell hand-crafted ornaments, nativity figurines, decorations, and gifts.
Go to a giant outdoor New Year’s party
Crowds are drawn to Rome’s famous piazzas and neighborhoods to celebrate New Year’s Eve. One of the largest gatherings is usually in Piazza del Popolo, where locals and tourists enjoy rock music, dancing, and street performers. Catch some breathtaking fireworks at midnight! You can get a better view of the display from the Villa Borghese park. You can also enjoy live music and fireworks near the Colosseum on Via Dei Fiori Imperiali.