Wednesday, November 10, 2021


Christmas Around the World – When in Rome

From the 17th of December until the 6th day of January, Christmas is celebrated throughout the regions of Italy. The first eight days of celebration is the Novena, which consists of days of caroling and door to door good cheer from children of all ages. It may be accompanied by shepherds and their musical instruments or simply poetry reading from children. Novena is a Catholic term that means nine, and it represents dedication to the church. The readings and songs are derived from the Catholic prayer books. The original novena was derived from the Greeks who observed nine days of mourning after the death of a loved one. It later was incorporated into the church as a tribute to the church of Acts where the apostles and Mary prayed for nine days after the Last Supper.

Novena as it is expressed here is the anticipation of the arrival of Christ that will be ended with a large feast.

Eight days prior to Christmas, there are musical celebrations in the homes of carpenters, and there are musical tributes played at the Shrine of Mary. This is the heralding in of the church services that happen before Christmas in the Catholic Church. At this time, the children dress up as shepherds and go back to caroling. They are given money to buy Christmas presents from the homes that they sing at.

Twenty four hours before Christmas Eve, there is a fast that will last until Christmas Eve, which will end in a feast without meat. The Feast of the Seven Fishes – cenone – is celebrated on Christmas Eve, and it is considered a way of paying penance by fasting from certain foods. The meal is served late in the evening, and the participants wait for the arrival of Christ at midnight.

Cenone can be filled with seafood, eel, mushrooms, truffles, clams, linguini, foccacia, seafood pie, tuna, soups and octopus stew. The Feast of the Seven Fishes can be interpreted as the Seven Deadly Sins, the Seven Sacraments or other interpretations depending upon the region the meal is being served. There is also a lot of deep frying going on on Christmas Eve in the Italian homes. Followed by desserts of Christmas cookies and pastries.

The Crib

The Italian Christmas celebration would not be right if it did not include a nativity scene of some sort. The presepio is the centerpiece of the celebration. It depicts the traditional manger scene, but goes on to add more non-traditional figures to the crib. This can include other figures, animals, scenic pieces, trees and angels. The figures are highly detailed and usually handcarved.

There is great care in creating the crib or ceppo for the holiday, and some have very strict rules about how it will be created. The traditional method is to design it on a triangular piece of wood and add the Holy family. Then build a wooden frame with a pyramid several feet high that will become home to paper, pine cones, glitter, flags, ornaments and small trees that represent the Christmas tree. There may be a tree for each child in the family. Some presepio will have candles on the corners that will be lit. The wooden frame will be held up with shelves that will house gifts, candy or anything else that the family wants to add. There will be a star or a small doll that is hung at the apex of the frame. The triangle is a the forerunner to the Christmas tree and is known as the ceppo, which means Tree of Light.

A presepio.

Urn of Fate

Gift giving is done in a few different ways for the Italian families. The Urn of Fate is a large bowl that houses all the gifts that are brought to the Christmas Eve celebration. Those gifts are all thrown in the bowl, and they have no names attached to them. Everyone chooses a gift until they are all gone. This makes it all a surprise.

Children traditionally hang their stockings out on the 5th of January, so they can be filled by Befana. She is a witch that was originally asked by the Magi for directions to Bethlehem. She was asked to join them on their quest to see the King, but she refused. Later, a shepherd asked her to come along with him, and she refused him as well. She then was greeted by a great light in the sky and decided that maybe she should have gone along with them. In an effort to catch up, she took toys that had belonged to son that she had lost and jumped on her broomstick to try and catch up with the rest. She failed, so now she spends eternity going from house to house with toys while she searches for the Baby Jesus.


We have the Italians to thank for the wonderful Christmas carols and nativity scenes that are part of the common household celebrations of Christmas.

Christmas Day is spent going to church, and the pope gives a noon blessing to the crowds in Vatican City.


Maybe you can find something in this dazzling list of gift ideas that would be perfect to drop into the Urn of Fate.

Cranberry Red Czech Crystal Bracelet, Artisan Beaded Jewelry

Victorian Style Treasures

Red and Blue Merry Christmas Holiday Gift Tags

Adore by Nat

Quartz Red Green Double Strand Necklace Natural Stone

Crocheted Christmas Red Jumper Infant w Snowflake Applique and Matching Hat

Red Crystal Kippah

Bloodwood, Exotic Wood Oval Earrings

Red And Silver Large Hole Bead Earrings

Red Black Chunky Necklace, Magnesite Onyx Handmade Statement Jewelry

Shadow Dog Designs 

ButterflyInTheAttic's Artist Shop

Red 3-Strand Memory Wire Cuff Bracelet with Dangles

Red Flower Beaded Bracelets for Women with Dyed Red Shell Beads

Looking for something different?
Here are more links to additional beautiful, handmade gifts.

Week 1
Week 2
Week 3
Week 4
Week 5
Week 6

Week 7

Week 8





Finish your pizza, drink your champagne and let’s move to our next stop. We only have a few more stops!


Julie and Harry


  1. What a fascinating read, Julie and Harry! Out of all the traditions from different countries, Italy has fascinated me the most. Would LOVE to see a presepio like the photo you shared - the detail in the work looks absolutely amazing. Red is my favorite color so am also loving all the red beauties you've featured. Many thanks for including my necklace. Will share the blog and the items far and wide. Treats to the Handsome Harry Florida Dog from the Speckled Desert Lizard-chasing Moose!

  2. Thank you, Julie for including my red large-hole bead earrings. I'm always learning something about Christmas traditions in other counties. So far, I would like to visit Italy the most and I'm not even a bit Italian. lol The presepios must look amazing in person, each creation being unique. I've shared each of these grand red colored gifts in Pinterest so far. Still working on getting my old Facebook page back, including my business page.

  3. Once again another interesting trip Around The World - Rome! I would love to celebrate Christmas in Rome, but your Blog made it the next best thing!! Thank you for including my Infant Red Jumper among your Christmas gifts!

  4. Julie, thanks for teaching me what a novena is. I've heard of it, but didn't know what it means.

    Love that all your gift ideas have red tones, a bright, cherry color. Thanks for including my red beaded kippah. Tweeted each so far.

    Appreciate your work so much!

  5. Another fascinating story about Christmas traditions, Julie. Would love to go to Italy someday, and perhaps in December to make it more festive. Thanks you for including my Christmas gift tags.

  6. Julie thanks for another fascinating read on a different countries Christmas celebration. Beautiful collection of Christmas gift ideas.

    Off to share and pin.

  7. So interesting! (I've always wanted to spend a Christmas in Rome.) And beautiful handmade goodies, perfect for holiday gift giving! Will be sharing the post on Twitter. Treats to Prince Harry Pup and all the wonderful furpals from Sir Gonze! :)

  8. I learned many new things in your post about Christmas in Italy. Very interesting. My brother and SIL just got back from a 10 day tour of Rome, Venice and Tuscany. All the Northern parts. They are going back next year to explore the Southern part of Italy. Thank you Julie! All will be pinned, tweeted and hash-tagged.