Italy Christmas Gift Traditions

The Christmas season in Italy begins on the first Sunday of Advent, which is four Sundays before Christmas. In the cold winter weather of the northern mountains and in the mild weather of the south, Christmas fairs feature fireworks and bonfires along with holiday music. Families go to the Christmas markets to shop for Christmas gifts and new figures for the manger scene. Some families set up a Christmas tree and decorate it.

During novena, the nine days before and including Christmas Day, children go from house to house reciting Christmas verses for coins. The family sets up its presepio, or manger scene, on the first day of the novena. They gather before the presepio each morning or evening of novena to light candles and pray.

On Christmas Eve, when the first star appears in the evening sky, every family sets burning candles in their windows to light the way for the Christ Child. They light candles around their presepio and pass the figure of the Baby Jesus from person to person, finally placing it tenderly in the manger. Then they enjoy a lavish meatless supper featuring fish or another type of seafood, vegetables, salads, antipasto, bread, pasta, and sweets. Later that night, everyone goes through the torch-lit streets on their way to Christmas Eve mass.

Christmas Day is reserved for church, family, and feasting. Some Italian children receive gifts from Baby Jesus or from Babbo Natale, as Father Christmas is called. Then everyone sits down to a big Christmas dinner. This often includes capon or another roasted meat. Pannettone, a yeast cake filled with fruit, and panforte, a dense honey cake spiced with cloves and cinnamon, are popular sweets, along with cassata, which includes ice cream and fruit.

The main exchange of Christmas gifts in Italy takes place on January 6, the feast of the Epiphany, the celebration in remembrance of the Magi’s visit to the Christ Child. Children anxiously await a visit from La Befana, a kind witch who brings small gifts, like toys, sweets and fruit for the good and punishment for the bad.

Gifts to Italy are expected for social events and holidays, including Christmas. Italians love receiving gifts especially with prestigious brand names which are at the same time small and not obviously expensive.

Being big connoisseurs of good food, Italians would be happy to receive a fine gourmet Christmas gift basket filled with exquisite gourmet goodies. A good imported wine or spirits basket from your home country could be also an excellent choice as Italians are interested in learning about other countries. Such gifts along with healthy fruit baskets and classic tea/coffee baskets are particularly suitable for business gifts for Christmas, big gatherings and for men. For Christmas gifts to near relations, including women and children, the most appropriate are chocolate baskets, romantic baskets, spa baskets and flower baskets.

Show your creativity and interest when selecting a Christmas gift to Italy and it is sure to bring the recipient good luck in the upcoming year!