This blog post was updated on October 8, 2018.
From my balcony in Sicily, I could spot December’s beginnings. I knew the calendar had turned from November to December by the giant glowing bow lights hanging from the streets, those set up weeks in advance. I knew that this month was not to be taken lightly in this country simply by decoration planning, positioning and ultimate execution. Italy celebrates December with several saints’ feast days and holiday themed events. If you are off to Italy this December, don’t miss these lively festivals and events.
Piazza Navona Christmas Market
Piazza Navona in Rome is easily the Eternal City’s most famous square around Christmas. From the end of November until early January, the piazza transforms into a full-blown Christmas market. From nativity scenes to sweet treats, you can find stalls selling a wealth of gifts for those friends and family back home. The Christmas Market in Piazza Navona is Rome’s biggest and most traditional Christmas Market. It also has the feeling of being one of Italy’s longest December events, as each day seems to bring a new celebration and sparkle to the season.
The Feast of Saint Barbara in Paternó, Sicily
Celebrated each December 4th, the Sicilian town of Paternó honors its patron saint Barbara. She is said to have saved the city from destruction numerous times beginning in the 16th century. Most notably, Barbara is honored for protecting the community from its volcanic neighbor, Mount Etna. The event features a religious ceremony and procession through town. Visitors can also expect to witness a fireworks display that would make the bubbling orange lava of Etna jealous.
The Lighting of the World’s Largest Christmas Tree in Gubbio
The world’s largest Christmas tree is not where you might think. The little town of Gubbio in Umbria proudly boasts of housing the Albero di Natale, piú grande del mondo. In other words, Gubbio turns on the lights to the world’s largest Christmas tree on December 7th of each year. With the Guinness Book of World Records as the town’s guide, Gubbio has gone on to embrace its larger than life Christmas tree. The lights are actually strung up Mount Ingino, measuring a height of 650 meters with over 700 lights. While this tree stays lit for the holiday season, you can come to town for the official lighting ceremony on December 7th.
The Feast of Saint Lucy in Siracusa, Sicily
Despite often being confused for a Swedish saint, Saint Lucy actually hails from Italy. Her feast day is celebrated across Italy on December 13th, but perhaps no other town honors Lucy better than Siracusa, Sicily. Local men parade a giant silver statue to the saint through the streets of Ortigia, Siracusa’s old town center. What seems like all of Sicily gathers to follow her in Piazza Duomo. Santa Lucia, as she is known on the island, is famous for resisting marriage and miraculously curing her mother’s illness.
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