5 Things to Know About Italian Holiday Traditions If You’re Studying at University in Italy

universities in Italy

Italy has some great, unique holiday traditions that students from other countries may not be familiar with, and its take on the festive season is one that is a joy to behold. As different as these traditions may seem to those used to other ways of celebrating the holiday season, they stand as time-tested traditions in Italy, and are an important part of local culture.

Here are five holiday traditions in Italy you might not have known about.

Italy’s Christmas Season Really Starts to Get Going on December 8th

Christmas—or Natale as it’s known in Italian—is a holiday that gets into full swing on December 8th of each year. On this day, Italians start decorating their homes, and Christmas markets start to appear on the streets. Students studying abroad during December will see Christmas trees and other decorations appearing outside people’s homes and in the piazzas of many Italian cities, such as in front of Rome’s Colosseum.

The Holiday Season Continues Well After New Years’ Day, Too

Although the Christmas season in Italy starts on December 8th when a cannon is fired from the Castel Sant’Angelo in Rome, the festivities continue after New Years’ Day, going all the way to Epiphany on January 6th. This is to celebrate the arrival of the Three Wise Men to Bethlehem, which students in Rome can see a re-enactment of at the Piazza Navona. On that same day, there’s also the tradition of La Befana, or the old woman bearing gifts during Epiphany. Children in Italy await her arrival and wake up to gifts on January 6th.

The arrival of La Befana on January 6th is a highly-anticipated day for Italian children

The arrival of La Befana on January 6th is a highly-anticipated day for Italian children

Italian Nativity Scenes, Known as Presepi, Are Also Well-Known

You’ll see these frequently displayed at piazzas, churches, homes, and other public areas. Nativity scenes—known as presepi in Italian—are impressively hand-crafted and prominent in Italy during the Christmas season. In fact, students at universities in Italy will notice how there are even workshops dedicated to hand-crafting presepi. Some even get creative with nativity scenes, using modern characters like politicians and footballers as part of the presepi. Rome also hosts an exhibition every year showcasing 100 different presepi made by artisans across the globe.

Nativity scenes, known as presepi, are very popular in Italy during Christmas

Nativity scenes, known as presepi, are very popular in Italy during Christmas

Students at Universities in Italy Should Avoid Meat on Christmas Eve

In Italy, it’s best to steer clear of ham, turkey, or any other meats the night before Christmas. On Christmas Eve (known as “La Vigilia” in Italian), people in Italy eat a meal rich in seafood—sometimes up to seven courses, giving it the English name “Feast of the Seven Fishes”.

Do you want to study at colleges in Rome?

Contact John Cabot University for more information!

Student Spotlight

Menu