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Christmas in Italy                              By Anna Veneroso


The Christmas season in Italy goes for three weeks, starting 8 days before Christmas known as the Novena. During this period, children go from house to house reciting Christmas poems and singing. In some parts shepherds (zampognari) bring musical instruments into the villages, play and sing Christmas songs. In the week before Christmas children go from house to house dressed as shepherds, playing pipes, singing and reciting Christmas poems. They are given money to buy presents. 

A strict feast is observed for 24 hours before Christmas Eve, and is followed by a celebration meal, in which a light Milanese cake called panettoni features as well as chocolate. Presents and empty boxes, are drawn from the Urn of Fate - lucky dip, which always contains one gift per person. By twilight, candles are lighted around the family crib known as the Presepio, prayers are said, and children recite poems. At noon on Christmas Day the pope gives his blessing to crowds gathered in the huge Vatican square. 

In Italy the children wait until Epiphany, January 6, for their presents. According to tradition, the presents are delivered by a kind ugly witch called Befana on a broomstick. It was said that she was told by the three kings that the baby Jesus was born, she was busy and delayed visiting the baby. 

She missed the Star lost her way and has been flying around ever since, leaving presents at every house with children in case he is there. She slides down chimneys, and fills stockings and shoes with good things for good children and it is said leaves coal for children who are not so good.

 

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Versione Italiana
 

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