Italy’s Final Holiday Feast

Long after many Americans have taken down their Christmas trees and packed away the decorations, Italians continue to celebrate. The final feast is l’Epifania (Epiphany), on January 6, which commemorates the arrival of i re magi, the three kings who followed the bright Christmas star to bring gifts for Baby Jesus. 

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Celebrating an Italian New Year

New Year’s Eve as we know it was an invention of the ancient Romans. In 153 B.C. they moved the start of the new year from the Spring equinox to January 1 and dedicated the first month  of the year to Janus, the two-faced god of beginnings, who looks back toward the old year and ahead toward the new one.

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Italy’s Three Christmas Feasts

Most families in Italy begin celebrating il Natale on the evening of December 24 (la vigilia di Natale) with a big dinner. Because Christmas Eve is a vigilia di magro (a day of abstinence on which the Catholic Church prohibits the consumption of meat), the centerpiece...

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Italian Christmas Traditions

“Natale con i tuoi; Pasqua con chi vuoi,” Italians say. “Christmas with your family; Easter with whomever you want.” An Italian Christmas centers on stare insieme in famiglia (being together as a family). Here are some of the most beloved traditions among Italian families…

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Christmas in Italy: The Nativity Scene  

Centuries ago, in 1223, San Francesco (Saint Francis), the charismatic friar of Umbria, wanted to bring to life the story of  the birth of Baby Jesus. In the little town of Greccio, he placed a manger in some straw and added a living Madonna, San Giuseppe (St. Joseph), shepherds and actual cattle, sheep and donkeys, the animals that once warmed the infant with their breath.

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Christmas in Italy: Lucia, the Saint of Light and Sight

Lucia, whose name derives from the Latin lux or lucis for light (luce in Italian), was a young girl who lived in Syracuse on the island of Sicily in the third century. According to various legends, this saintly virgin would wear a wreath of candles as she carried food to Christians hiding in underground tunnels. When a suitor claimed to be captivated by her eyes, Lucia plucked them out and had them sent to him on a platter. (In another version, she was blinded and miraculously cured.)

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La Passione
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