How to Celebrate the Winter Holidays in Rome

How to Celebrate the Holiday Season in Italy's Capital City

Christmas tree at Colosseum at dusk
Getty Images/Richard I'Anson

If you are traveling to Italy's capital city during the holiday season, here are the festivals and events that happen each December. Before you book your plane ticket, it's important to note that December 8, 25, and 26 are national holidays in Italy, so you should expect most businesses, museums, and other government facilities to be closed. For more events and festivals, check out this Rome Month-by-Month guide, and for additional Christmas-season happenings, see Christmas in Rome.

Holidays and Events in Rome in December

  • Hanukkah: During Hanukkah, Rome's large Jewish community gathers in Piazza Barberini, where candles on a large Menorah are lit each evening during the eight-night holiday. The area near Campo dei Fiori is also festive during this time. Hanukkah falls during a different week each year, sometimes even happening in late November, so make sure you check the dates before making holiday plans. In 2017, this holiday is from December 12 to December 20.
  • Christmas Markets in Rome: From early December through January 6, visitors will find festive markets in Piazza Navona filled with stalls selling handmade gifts, nativity crafts, children's toys, and seasonal treats.
  • Nativity Display: 100 Presepi, a display of Nativity Scenes from around the world, is on display in Sala del Bramante near Piazza del Popolo through January 6. Nativity displays are also set up in most of Rome's churches if you're planning on attending mass or a service.
  • Immaculate Conception: On this holy day, December 8, the Catholic faithful celebrate the day of the Virgin Mary's conception of Jesus. Traditionally, the Pope celebrates this day by leading a caravan from the Vatican to Piazza di Spagna, where he lays a wreath at the Colonna dell'Immacolata in front of Trinita dei Monti Church.
  • Saint Lucy's or Santa Lucia Day: While the feast day of Santa Lucia (December 13), is more widely celebrated in Sicily, in Rome, it is observed with a large procession from Castel Sant'Angelo to Saint Peter's Square.
  • Christmas Eve: Along with being a time to spend with family, Christmas Eve (December 24) is also the night when nativity displays are traditionally completed by adding the baby Jesus or are unveiled, such as the life-size nativity in Saint Peter's Square.
  • Christmas Day: You can expect everything to be closed on Christmas Day (December 25) as Romans celebrate one of the most religious holidays of the year. Of course, there are many ways to celebrate Christmas in Rome, from attending midnight mass at Saint Peter's Basilica to visiting Christmas crèches around the city.
  • Saint Stephen's Day: This public holiday is observed on the day after Christmas (December 26), and is typically an extension of Christmas Day, when families venture out to view nativity scenes in churches and visit Christmas markets. The feast day of Santo Stefano, also held on this day, is especially celebrated at churches that venerate Saint Stephen, such as the church of Santo Stefano Rotondo near the Colosseum
  • New Year's Eve (Festa di San Silvestro): Just as it is all over the world, New Year's Eve (December 31), which coincides with the Feast of Saint Sylvester (San Silvestro), is celebrated with much fanfare in Rome. Piazza del Popolo holds Rome's largest public celebration with music, dancing, and fireworks and of course, huge crowds. Check our information on New Year's Eve in Italy for more information on festivities and traditions.