Planning on celebrating the holidays in the City of Water? Here are the festivals and events that take place each December that you need to know about, and where and when they are celebrated.
December Events and Religious Holidays in Venice
Hanukkah: Though Italy is a largely Catholic and Christian nation, you will be able to find some Hannukkah celebrations in most large cities. Hanukkah is Jewish holiday that takes place over eight nights.
It doesn't have a fixed date and usually takes place sometime between early to mid-December (and sometimes November). In Venice, Hanukkah is traditionally celebrated in the Venetian Ghetto. The Ghetto was the first segregated Jewish community in the world, dating back to 1516. In the Ghetto, within the Cannaregio Sestiere, you will see the lighting of the large Menorah each night, and get the chance to participate in traditional and fun Hanukkah festivities with locals. Sampling the wide variety of kosher foods is a must, and there is no shortage of delicious treats available for purchase.
The Immaculate Conception (Immacolata Concezione): On this day, December 8, the Catholic faithful celebrate the conception of Jesus Christ by the Virgin Mary (Madonna). As it is a national holiday, you can expect many businesses to be closed in observance, as well as several masses (services) held throughout the city at many different times of the day.
Campo Santo Stefano Christmas Market: Taking place from mid-December until mid-January, the festive Christmas market in Campo Santo Stefano is filled with stalls selling high-quality and frequently handcrafted Venetian items including nativity scenes, children's toys, and delicious seasonal treats. Plenty of food, drinks, and live music are also a large part of the festivities that will put you in a jolly holiday mood.
Christmas Day (Giorno di Natale): You can expect everything to be closed on Christmas Day (December 25) as Venetians celebrate one of the most important religious holidays of the year. Of course, there are many ways to celebrate Christmas in Venice, from attending midnight mass at Saint Mark's Basilica to visiting Christmas crèches (nativity scenes) around the city.
Saint Stephen's Day (Il Giorno di Santo Stefano): This public holiday takes place the day after Christmas (December 26) and is typically an extension of Christmas day. Families venture out to view nativity scenes in churches, as well as visit the Christmas markets, and just enjoy quality time together. The feast day of Santo Stefano is also held on this day and especially celebrated at churches that venerate Saint Stephen.
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 Venice. A huge celebration is held in Saint Mark's Square culminating in a fireworks show and countdown to midnight.