The season for Christmas in Italy is bracketed by occasions of religious significance and the whole duration is heavily based on the historic events surrounding the birth of Christ in this deeply Catholic country.
Even though Christmas is, needless to say, entirely about the birth of Christ, increasing secularisation, commercialisation, and Americanisation is creating the occasion much more about giving gifts and eating quite a bit as an alternative to celebrating the birth with the son of God.
The main period of celebration for Christmas in Italy is December 24 (Christmas Eve) to January 6 (Epiphany), although it is not unusual for the period to begin from the Feast Day with the Immaculate Conception (December 8). The centrepiece for Christmas will be the scene with the Nativity. The presepe was invented in Italy by Giovanni Vellita, in the village of Geccio, at the request of Saint Francis of Assisi.
The actual giving of presents – a tradition which originated using the three Magi delivering gold, frankincense, and myrrh – for the duration of Christmas in Italy is reserved for Epiphany rather than taking place on Christmas Day. This additional directly reflects the origins on the tradition and its religious significance. You will find nevertheless presents given on the day itself, but these are drawn at random from the Urn of Fate – a large, ornate bowl holding a number of modest presents. Every member of your household draws a gift in turn until all are gone.
For the main giving of gifts, the distributor just isn’t a jolly old man using a red suit, nor is it an incarnation of St Nicholas. La Befana, so the story goes, was a woman who turned the Magi away after they were looking for food and shelter on their long journey to discover Jesus Christ. She regretted her choice later, however the Magi had moved on. She distributes gifts to young children at Epiphany as an act of repentance, possibly even aiming to discover Christ, but not recognizing exactly where exactly to look.
The actual giving of gifts – a tradition which originated with the three Magi delivering gold, frankincense, and myrrh – throughout Christmas in Italy is reserved for Epiphany rather than taking place on Christmas Day. This more directly reflects the origins of the tradition and its religious significance.
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May 23 2012 08:51 am | Destinations