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There are Christmas traditions in Italy that are widespread practically everywhere in the country, such as the Christmas tree and the nativity scene. To be fair, however, the Christmas tree is much more common in the north of Italy, while the nativity scene in more common in the centre and south.
In some areas of northern Italy, it is not Santa Claus who brings the gifts, but Saint Lucia. This tradition persists, for example, in the provinces of Cremona but also Brescia, Bergamo and Verona. In particular, the tradition of Santa Lucia is very much felt in Lombardy and Veneto: in Verona it is said that during the holidays of 1200 in the city an epidemic spread that affected the sight of children and that, to avert it, the mothers decided to make their little ones go on a pilgrimage asking for the grace of Saint Lucia, protector of the blind. To persuade the children, they promised that the Saint would have them find gifts on their return. From that moment, on the night between 12 and 13 December, Veronese children, like the Lombards, are waiting for Saint Lucia to carry the gifts on the back of her donkey.
A typical custom of Trentino Alto Adige is that of the Advent Wreath. Each family makes a wreath with fir branches and intertwined red silk ribbons, inserting 4 candles on this wreath. Every Sunday before Christmas day, families gather to light one, waiting together for December 25th.
In the centre of Italy there is another widespread custom, that of bagpipers – that is, musicians who roam the streets of the villages playing typically Christmas songs with their bagpipes. Sometimes they even knock on doors, cheering with their music in exchange for an offering.
When it comes to Christmas traditions regarding food, while in some regions there is a tendency to celebrate in style during the Christmas lunch, in others the most noteworthy event is that of the Christmas Eve dinner on December 24th. Just think, for example, of the Christmas traditions in Sicily: in some mountain villages, on the night of the 24th, bonfires are lit to warm the Child Jesus. Furthermore, many families, after the usual dinner, tell tales and legends to each other, to entertain the children waiting for Santa Claus.
Of course, these are just some of the Christmas traditions scattered around Italy. While not covering all regions, however, they represent an excellent starting point for a symbolic journey which, we hope, can help to put our international Friisberg family into a merry Christmas mood.