In this post, you’ll discover what happens on Christmas day in Italy: food, meals, and traditions. 

a page of the Gourmet Mag with Christmas flowers
Italian Christmas stracciatella soup in a page of the Gourmet Mag

Christmas Day in Italy is a day of family gatherings, food, gift opening, religious traditions, card games, movies, and city walks.

You’re about to find out what happens on Christmas day in Italy, at least in the majority of households.

Christmas Day morning

The first Italian Christmas Day tradition is to wear cute pajamas and have breakfast with the family: Pandoro or Panettone leftovers dipped in a foamy cappuccino or latte macchiato

Try making pandoro French toasts!

In some parts of Italy, Christmas gifts are given on the 25th morning (and not at midnight on the 24th), as if it was baby Jesus that delivered them during the night. In some Northern Italian places instead, St Lucia is the gift bearer. She visits children on the night of December 12th. Kids leave a cup of tea for her and a plate of cornflour (or a carrot) for her donkey.

The religious members of the family, too cold or lazy to assist to the midnight mass, will go to the morning or the noon mass. All the others will sluggishly help reorder the house or play with the children’s new toys.

Christmas Day socks
my beagle dog next to my Christmas fireplace

 Most of the pictures in this post are from the Red & Orange Simposio. Get your copy for more Italian Christmas traditions and recipes!

a page of the Gourmet Mag with a meaty Christmas dish
Italian Christmas Panettone in a page of the Gourmet Mag

Christmas Day lunch

After the “frugal” fishy Christmas Eve, Italians are ready to welcome meat to their tables again. 

So expect anything from tortellini (in broth) to lasagne, from stuffed Cappone (castrated domestic cock, usually stuffed with sausages, prunes, chestnuts, and herbs) to roast pork or rabbit.

Of course, before that, a cheese board or a charcuterie plate with prosciutto, pancetta, lard, and salami will welcome you to the table.

Of course, there’s going to be something sweet to end the feast: another Panettone or Pandoro, but also torrone, strudel, cannolistruffoli, cookies, and cakes.

IF you have dinner, it’s usually leftovers or a light broth.

Christmas decorations
Christmas Italian torrone


Italian Christmas Day traditions

After the strenuous digestion (supported by a tiny glass or two of amaro or limoncello), there are a few afternoon traditions:

  • Go back to card games (Mercante in Fiera) and Tombola (bingo);
  • Sprawl on the couch and watch a Christmas movie;
Christmas Day fair
Christmas Day walk
  • Go for a walk in a beautiful spot in the city. In Rome, for example, there’s the extra-crowded Piazza Navona, or the One Hundred Cribs exhibition (an art show of one hundred artisanal Cribs from Italy and the rest of the World). You’ll meet people in the piazzas and the streets and find fair stands with games, treats, and various entertainers, like Zampognari. If you want to be alone and rest a bit, there are a lot of parks and villas to go for a walk.
Christmas bandana beagle at the park
my beagle Smeagol with his Christmas bandana
  • Go to the movies (or the opera, or the theater), but this is something you must have planned: unless you book a few days, or weeks, in advance, you’ll never find tickets!
Christmas Day opera poster
Rome's opera house

That’s mostly how Christmas day in Italy works. But there’s more to find out about: New Year’s Eve!

Enjoy your Christmas in Italy and spread some, so needed, love!


a page of the Gourmet Mag with Christmas games
a red car and Christmas street lights in a page of the Gourmet Mag