Christmas celebrations in Italy

Flavio Squartini, Staff Reporter

Christmas is a really important holiday for all the Christian world, so a person would think that it is celebrated in the same way everywhere, but that is not true. While here, in the U.S., people put lots of attention on house decorations, especially on the outside. But in other part of the world, it is not like that.

At home in Italy people don’t decorate their houses with a lot of lights, maybe just a few, but not everybody does that. The only big, colorful Christmas lights that you can see in Italy are in the streets, especially in the city centre of big cities where they are spectacular.

Italians are more about inside decorations. The most characteristic and particular thing  you can find in an Italian house during Christmas is the nativity. The tradition of the Italian nativity is really old and it is from Napoli (Naples). The first one was made in 1478, but the modality that they use nowadays is from 1640.

The “presepe napoletano” is really elaborated: the figures are made of wood for the visible parts (face, hands) and metal for the inside body; they also have actual clothes and jewels, sometimes made of gold and silver, which can make a nativity scene expensive. The biggest “presepi napoletani” are always ancient and they are usually property of some big, historic church; you can hardly ever see a real “presepe napoletano” in your friend’s house because a cheap, modern figure cost at least 200 euros ( approximately $260).

For this reason Italian families do their nativities with different kinds of figures, sold by small shops that open only during Christmas time and are located in specific places in the cities (e.g., Roma: piazza Navona; Napoli: via San Gregorio Armeno). Some families also buy just the figures and make all the buildings and stuff by themselves.

So while Christmas lights outside may be the thing in America, Presepe is that magic element that is in every house in Italy and gives Italians the Christmas spirit.