of Abruzzo and Latium and usher the festivities. They do so by playing the most melodious tunes on their bagpipes, the music is so joyous that on hearing it people can't help but be buoyant about the festival season.
They then have a lucky dip; where presents are drawn out (one per person) from the Urn of Fate. Every family has a crib known as Presepio and as evening draws near candles are lit around it. Prayers are then recited around the candles. The crowds who gather in the huge Vatican Square receive blessings from the Pope, the next afternoon.
Christmas Traditions In Italy
The Italians have a traditional of fasting 24 hours before the Christmas Eve. This strict fast culminates in what can only be called a grand gastronomical affair the highlight of which is the Milanese cake, Panettone. The Italians have a female version of Santa Claus, La Befana and children set out their shoes on Christmas Eve so that she may fill them with gifts and candy. Legend has it that children would find their shoes filled with candy if they had been good the previous year, but had they been bad they would be filled with coal. La Befana is a legend of great proportions in Italy with many tales abound about her. It is said that when Jesus was born, Le Befana missed the Star of Bethlehem and has since then been flying around. At every house with Children, she leaves presents just in case Baby Jesus too is there. Like Santa Claus, she too has a strange fondness for Chimneys from which she climbs down to fill children's stockings with candy or coal.
Christmas Eve in Italy
Italy is famous for its artistic cribs and there's no better time for seeing these intricate manger depiction than on Christmas Eve. They are generally molded out of clay and plaster and depict Baby Jesus, Mother Mary and Joseph. On Christmas Eve, there's another tradition which is followed namely the burning of the Yule log. This log remains alight till New Year's Eve. Legend has it that when people are away at Christmas mass on Christmas eve, Mother Mary enters their houses and warms her hands from the fire by the log
Christmas Food in Italy
Even as the religious traditions are being followed on Christmas Eve, long slender candles called Christmas tapers are brought out and lit and the table is set for a grand Christmas feast. Typical Italian Christmas meal consists largely of fish and one will in many places find as many as 10-20 different varieties. The traditional Christmas dish of Rome is the “Capitone” which is a female eel, roasted and fried. In other places in Italy, the traditional dish may be pork, sausage packed in a pig's leg, covered in lentils, or chestnuts stuffed Turkey.
What is really popular throughout Italy, are the Christmas sweets particularly the Panettone. The panettone is a candied fruit filled cake. The other popular sweets are the "torrone" (nougat) and "panforte" (gingerbread), which are made out of honey, almonds and hazelnuts. According to the traditions of the Italian peasants, eating almonds increases the fertility of the earth and helps in the prosperity of the family. Honey is offered so that the New Year is sweet.