In Italy natale is a big deal. In the most Catholic country on earth, the celebration of Christ’s birth isn’t so much about Father Christmas (although Babbo Natale is becoming more prominent nowadays) or the Christmas tree (l’albero di natale), it’s more about bringing the family together to make and eat lots of different traditional dishes. In fact the Italians spend nearly a whole month celebrating. Here are some important dates in the Italian Christmas calendar:
• 6 Dicembre: La Festa di San Nicola – The festival in honour of St. Nicholas, the patron saint of shepherds, is celebrated in some towns with the lighting of fires under enormous cauldrons, in which fave (broad beans) are cooked, then eaten ceremoniously.
• 8 Dicembre: L’Immacolata Concezione – celebration of the Immaculate Conception
• 13 Dicembre: La Festa di Santa Lucia – celebration of the patron saint of the Catholic Church
• 24 Dicembre: La Vigilia di Natale – Christmas Eve
• 25 Dicembre: Natale – Christmas
• 26 Dicembre: La Festa di Santo Stefano – St. Stephen’s Day marks the announcement of the birth of Jesus and the arrival of the Three Wise Men
• 31 Dicembre: La Festa di San Silvestro – New Year’s Eve is another opportunity to eat a lot!
• 1 Gennaio: Il Capodanno – New Year’s Day
• 6 Gennaio: La Festa dell’Epifania – The Epiphany – this is when the Italians celebrate the Befana, which you can read about in Antonio’s blog posted last Christmas.
Greeting cards aren’t really used in Italy but if you want to wish friends or loved ones well, here are some useful phrases:
Buon Natale! – Merry Christmas!
Ti/Vi auguro buon natale e felice anno nuovo! – I wish you/you (plural) a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!
Buone feste – Happy holidays!
Tanti auguri di buon natale/Auguri di buon anno – Best wishes for a Merry Christmas! / Happy New Year!
*Auguri* (pronounced: OW-GOO-RY) is a key word in Italian, meaning best wishes for any occasion; birthdays, anniversaries, achievements and holidays.