Festivities in December

8 December - the "Immacolata" in Milan

The Immacolata is a deeply felt celebration in Milan (where a "Madonnina" atop the Cathedral is a symbol of the city) and comes just one day after the patron Sant'Ambrogio. Often the two festive days come together with a Saturday or Sunday, or the non-festive days are included in a "Ponte dell'Immacolata", with Christmas markets in the streets and tourists coming to shop (or watch the windows) of the great boutiques.

6 December - San Nicola

St. Nicholas of Myra, whose relics are in the Cathedral of Bary, is deeply venerated in Southern Italy. On his day, gifts were traditionally exchanged. It is no mystery that the story of this saint bishop was the origin of the legend of Santa Claus.

8 December in Atri

In Atri, Abruzzo, the Immacolata is celebrated with the "Faugni" - Some time before dawn, when the bells of the Cathedral start tolling, from all hamlets and quarters of the town groups of Atriani move towards the Cathedral carrying huge burning bunches of canes. Then they attend early morning Mass after which they exchange wishes of peace and prosperity. The tradition of bonfires is this period of the year is connected to ancient solstice rites.

10 Dec. Madonna di Loreto

Torino di Sangro, "Mattinata del Viso Adorno"
The Virgin of Loreto, protector of Torino Di Sangro, is celebrated with a very moving ceremony. In the early hors of 10 December, when it's still night, the population gathers along the shore, at a place called Le morgie, then follows slowly in the light of torches the ancient tratturo towards the church of the Madonna di Loreto. About 4 in the morning the Statue of Virgin mary is richly decorated in gold and precious clothes, and placed in the square before the church, where the Mattinata starts. It's a duo by two singers, reciting rhyming couplets with musical interludes. The Mattinata proceeds to the Mayor's house, people or friends, wellcomed everywhere with wine and cakes.

The creche

The creche (Crib) tradition took origin in Greccio, a small village now in the Province of Rieti, Latium, on the Christmas Night of the year 1223, when St. Francis wanted to show to the local people what the nativity was truly like. In a cave with a ox and donkey, in a poor crib, he recreated a small hut of Bethlehem. After that Christmas, artists and artisans proposed their cribs, and in Naples a very rich tradition of making cribs originated. In the 15th century the crib was in all houses, and each church staged its own.


It's a gift you can do on the first day of the year as a charmer for your parents and friends. The tradition of kissing under the mistletoe is a Scandinavian tradition, but spread all over the world. The plant is the triumph of life: it grows miraculously on such trees as fir trees or apple trees. It's the symbol of strength and eternity, and as such was already used by the Druids 1000 years before Christ.

Zampognari (Bagpipes players)

Small groups of bagpipes players, most of them coming from Abruzzo, Molise, some other villages of southern Italy, for centuries used to go to Rome on the 25th November to create a Christmas atmosphere and earn some money. They were called by rich families to play night and day, so much so that Pope Leo XII didn't allow them to play during the night until 4 a.m. At the end of the XIX century the tradition started to lose its relevance.