December celebrations and events in Italy naturally revolve around the Christmas season. The winter Italian holidays include the Feast Day of the Immaculate Conception (December 8), Christmas Eve and Day, and Saint Stephen's Day, the day after Christmas.
Although Christmas is a major cause of celebration across the country in December, Italians also have several festivals honoring the saints and even olive oil (which is traditionally pressed in December) during the month, meaning there's no shortage of events and activities to discover if you're planning a vacation to Italy this time of year.
Here are Italian holidays and celebrations that fall at the end of the year. And to finish off with a bang, New Year's Eve is celebrated with fireworks throughout Italy.
Montecatini Terme, located just northeast of Florence in the Tuscany region of Italy, now plays host to the annual Florentine tradition of Florence Noel, a family event with lots of children's activities including the house of Babbo Natale, Father Christmas. Festivities start at the end of November, run through early January, and include a nativity village, food and chocolate sampling, and a variety of live and recorded music.
The wild boar festival (Suvereto Sagra del Cinghiale) in the medieval Tuscan town of Suvereto, in the Livorno province, is a two-week festival starting at the end of November and lasting through December 10, when there's a big feast.
Besides wild boar, you'll find other products from the area, including wine, olive oil, and honey, and the festival includes people in medieval costume and medieval competitions, so it's still a great event even if you don't like boar.
Located in La Rocca Paolina, the city's historic 16th-century fortress, this huge market features a wide variety of food and crafts, as well as workshops for adults and children. It runs early December through early January in Perugia, the capital of Umbria.
Saint Barbara Day
The highlight of the week-long celebration in honor of Saint Barbara is December 4 in the Sicilian town of Paterno on the slopes of Mount Etna volcano, and afterward, there is a parade where the nativity scene is erected.
Saint Barbara is the town's patron saint and the protectress of firemen and firework maker; she has been called upon many times as a protection against Mount Etna's eruptions.
This Christian festival is celebrated December 6 in many places in the Abruzzo region with traditional loaves of bread and taralli (hard, round biscuits) often enjoyed with wine. Saint Nicholas is known as the bringer of gifts, and grandfathers dress up as the Saint and give gifts to children (including "coal" made of sugar for those children who have been bad).
There are special events all around Italy to commemorate the Saint Nicolas Feast Day, but girls from around the country come to the Basilica di San Nicola in Bari to pay respect to the patron saint of young women wanting to get married.
Located on Murano Island in Venice is a week-long celebration for San Nicolo, the patron saint of glass blowers complete with a procession on the water December 6.
Elsewhere, in the village of Val di Fassa on December 5 and 6, San Nicolò, the protector of children, along with two angels and Krampus, will hand out gifts after making sure each child has been nice the previous year.
Celebrated December 7 in the Sant'Ambrogio area of Milan, Saint Ambrogio Day honors the patron saint of Milan. The day begins with a special church service at one of the city's oldest churches, Basilica of Sant'Ambrogio. Then, stalls are set up in the neighborhood—called the Oh Bej! Oh Bej! street market—selling a variety of local food and drinks as well as art and crafts.
Falling on December 8, Feast Day of the Immaculate Conception is a national holiday in Italy featuring celebrations throughout the country, especially in churches, which hold special masses. Although government offices and banks are closed, many stores stay open for holiday shopping.
In any case, you'll find parades, feasts, and music in many places, and in the Abruzzo region, it is often celebrated with bonfires and traditional singing while Rome celebrates with floral wreaths and a ceremony at the Spanish Steps presided over by the Pope.
In the theaters and churches of Lake Trasimeno is a huge festival of free gospel music, running from December 8 through January 6 featuring the Lovesick Duo at Wave Road Live Music Restaurant, the Charleston Gospel Singers at the Urban Auditorium, and Leburn Maddox Funk Explosion at the Onda Road Trasimeno Blues Restaurant.
December 13 is celebrated in many Italian towns with Santa Lucia Day, a full-on celebration honoring the patron saint of blindness. One of the biggest celebrations takes place in Sicily where the city of Siracusa holds a huge parade carrying the saint on a golden coffin to the Church of Santa Lucia, and on December 20 there is another parade to return her to the crypt. There are celebrations all week and thousands of pilgrims come to Siracusa, and the festivities end with a big fireworks display over the harbor.
The day after Christmas is a national holiday in Italy called Saint Stephen's Day. Whereas Christmas Day is time spent at home with family, Saint Stephen's Day is a time to walk the streets and visit nativity scenes, offering donations to the local churches. Some towns' members visit hospitals while others hold processions dedicated to Saint Stephen.