MtG's Advent Calendar: 8 Days to Go…8 Facts to Know

With only 8 days to go, preparations of creating an unforgettable Christmas is in full swing in most homes throughout Italy, especially those in Rome.  This past Saturday, Pope Francis held the Vatican’s annual Christmas concert, featuring the likes of American singer-songwriter Patti Smith; and many other events are happening throughout the city over the next several days and beyond that. (Check out our previous post for a listing of some of those events: Winter in Rome).

(Video: He’s Ready for Holidays. Are You?)

Although Christmas is not celebrated by all who visit Rome or live here, the holiday certainly impacts the way in which the Eternal City is experienced during the winter.  To help you countdown to the 8 days to the big day, we’re sharing 8 facts about what it means to celebrate Christmas in Rome and the rest of Italy.  Feel free to share them with your friends!


Did You Know…

1. The Pope & Christmas Day

Image by Daily Mail. Click on image to read Pope Francis’ 2013 Christmas Message

If you happen to be in Rome on Christmas Day, you can go to the Vatican at noon to receive a blessing from the Pope?


2. The Saturnalia, An Ancient Winter Festival

Image from Writer Joe Saward’s Formula 1 Blog. Painting by Thomas Couture Title: Romans During the Decadence.

In ancient Rome, the most important winter festival to honor Saturn, who was also an agricultural deity, was called Saturnalia?  The festival occurred between the 17th and 23rd of December, during the time of Christmas Advent Celebration.


3. Buon Natale!

Image from Mac for Dummies

The word for “Christmas” in Italian, Natale, also means “birthday” in English?  Or that December 8th marks the start of Christmas with the celebration of L’Immacolata Concezione (The Immaculate Conception)?


4. Babbo Natale vs. La Befana

Image from Erimata

Babbo Natale (Father Christmas) is what Santa Claus is called, from whom Italian children request presents?  These presents, however, were not brought by Babbo Natale on Christmas Day, but instead by La Befana, a witch.  Not only would she bring presents, but she also brought il carbone (coal) for the children who had been naughty. In some places, like Venice, presents are brought by others, such as Santa Lucia or by Gesu’ Bambino (Baby Jesus).


5. The Nativity Scene

Image from WordPress: Click on image to read more about the Nativity Scene

Il Presepe, the Nativity scene, holds an important place as a holiday decoration and can be found in both homes, churches and is a popular winter market sale item?

6. The Seven Fishes

Image from Chef Mario Batali’s Christmas Eve Feast of the Seven Fishes Menu. Click to read article and watch video!

Practicing Catholics do not consume meat (and sometimes all dairy products) on Christmas Eve, and observe Christmas as a “day of abstinence”? Instead, they eat fish, such as the famed Feast of the Seven Fishes, which is Southern Italian and popular in Italian-American households.


7. Holiday Sweet Treats!

Image from Wikipedia. Click on image to learn more about Torrone.

If you have a sweet tooth, then you should make sure to try any or all of the major holiday desserts, such as torrone (a delicious nougat) and panettone (a really tasty Milanese fruitcake).  Mulled wine (vin brule) is also popular as well as Bombardino (a type of eggnog). Want to make your own torrone? Check out this recipe from Delallo: Torrone.


8. The Bagpipers & Flutists of Piazza Navona (and elsewhere)

Finally, you make come across some interesting and very different musicians when visiting religious shrines.  These musicians are called Zampognari (bagpipers) and Pifferai (flutists). The Zampognari and Pifferai are an important traditional part of the holiday celebrations, and could be seen as the carollers of winter holidays.  See for yourself in the video above!

  -Article by  Diedré Blake


For other interesting facts about the holiday, visit Italian Language Guide!

And, Given Today’s Post Date, The Mind the Guide Team Wishes You A…

Happy Saturnalia!!


Don’t Forget Winter Sale on Tours of the Colosseum & Vatican:

Discount of 20% with Coupon Code: MTG38FLR

Valid Until Tuesday, 6 January 2015


Look Out For Posts Every Wednesday & Saturday!

The MindtheGuideTeam 

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