Christmas is the warmest and most intimate Italian holiday as it’s a special time when family members get together to enjoy age-old traditions.

On Christmas Eve, a ceremony takes place around the presepio, a nativity scene of Bethlehem.

Each of the 20 regions of Italy has a different culinary tradition for the cena della Vigilia, or Christmas Eve dinner.

Every year in the U.S., many people celebrate the Feast of the Seven Fishes on Christmas Eve. Although it is unclear when the dinner became so popular, this celebration is considered one of the most Italian traditions. Typically, the family gathers around a feast of seven different seafood dishes, or one or two different types of fish prepared in seven different ways.

(Learn more on Eataly’s Feast of the Seven Fishes page, the source for these yummy food details.)

On Christmas Eve, when people return from church in Italy, it is also tradition to enjoy hot chocolate and a slide of panettone – a dry fruity sponge cake.

Lastly, instead of waiting for Santa on Christmas Eve, Italian children wait for La Befana on the eve of the Epiphany, January 5. The good-natured witch climbs down chimneys to fill good children’s socks with handmade gifts and treats.

According to legend, La Befana’s magic broom sweeps away the problems of the new year.

Buon Natale!

Don’t miss all the Holidays Around the World articles. Merry Christmas! >^..^<