Holidays in Italy

Italian Holidays

 

Many of the most popular Italian holidays are shared with all the western world, think of Christmas or New Year's Eve. Others have been imported, like Halloween. Others yet are typically Italian, like our national holidays or the Epiphany.

 

Let's review some of the most cherished among Italian holidays, which are not known or practiced in the rest of the world.  If you'd like to know more about specific holidays in our beautiful peninsula, check out the scroll down menu on the left and pick your favorite!

 

THE EPIPHANY

The Epiphany is celebrated on the sixth of January and it originally symbolized the birth of Jesus. It is still celebrated as that in the Eastern Orthodox Church. However, when the Catholic Church decided to celebrate Christmas on the 25th of December instead, the meaning of the holiday changed, at least for Catholics.

 

The Epiphany is a holiday celebrated throughout Italy 

 

Greek for "miracle," the word "epiphany" came to be known as a celebration of three important events that took place early in Jesus' life: the visit to the a newly born Jesus of the Three Wise Kings, or Magi, his baptism by John the Baptist, and the first miracle he performed, at the wedding in Cana.

 

In Italy, the Epiphany marks the end of the Christmas season: it is, literally, the Twelfth Day of Christmas. As the saying goes "l'Epifania tutte le feste porta via", which can be rougly translated as "Epiphany takes all the holidays away".

 

On the sixth of January, children wake up to find presents from the Befana, an ancient Santa Claus-like figure with the appearence of an old, benevolent hag, all trussed up in old clothes and shoes and flying on a broomstick. Her name originally meant  "giver of gifts". Just like Santa Claus, she flies down  chimneys to fill stockings with toys and candy. In some areas of Italy, the Befana leaves toys and candies for good children, and pieces of coal for the naughty ones. Some parents use coal-shaped sweets as a friendly advice for their children, the implied message to them being "next year behave better". The entire family then ventures out to take part in large, colorful street fairs, where they buy more gifts, usually terracotta statuettes or kitchen ware. In Rome, Piazza Navona hosts a very popular Christmas street market, renowned as a favorite location for Epiphany day shopping in the city. 

 

 

LIBERATION DAY

Celebrated on  the twety-fifth of April, it commemorates the liberation of Italy by Allied troops in the Second World War. After Italy surrendered, Nazi Germany considered it as a new enemy, and intensified the anti partisans operations against the Italian freedom fighters. The holiday is meant to honor all those who died during the war, from soldiers,  to civilian victims of Allied bombings and atrocities committed during Nazi Germany's bitter retreat from its former ally's territory. 

 

25th of April's politically charged parade on an Italian street

 

 

MAY DAY

The first of May is celebrated in most of the world as Labor Day. In Italy, it is not just a workers' holiday, but a day for left political parties to hit the streets and protest their cause. The atmosphere is usually festive, like one, friendly street fair. However, protesters sometimes get carried away and become a little too rowdy. The climax of every First of May celebration is the free music concert of Piazza San Giovanni, in Rome, where the most important Italian singers and performers, as well as many foreign stars perform before a festive audience.

 

May day street-protest parade. Milan, Italy

 

 

FESTIVAL OF THE REPUBLIC

The second of June marks the day in 1946 when Italy voted in a referendum to abolish the monarchy and become a republic. Support for the monarchy had plunged because the king of Italy had supported Mussolini. So hostile was the public, that the royal family was exiled from Italy as punishment, an exile that only ended recently. The high moment of the festival is the parade of the Armed Forces in Rome.

 

FERRAGOSTO

Along with Christmas, Easter, and New Year's Eve, Ferragosto is  probably the best loved holiday in Italy. Celebrated on the fifteenth of August, it honors Mary's Assumption to Heaven, where Catholic belief says She sits beside her Son, Jesus. It is a day of great festivities with celebrations in the streets and prayers to the Virgin Mary for thanks and support. All of Italy shuts down to celebrate Ferragosto. During the years, just like Christmas, the religious connotation of the holiday has been overtaken by its mundane side. In most of Italy, especially in touristic areas and locations, Ferragosto is a sort of second New Year's Eve, with parties and celebrations.

 

 

Ferragosto is an Italian holiday celebrated on the 15th of August 
 

 

ALL SAINTS AND ALL SOULS' DAYS

 

All Saints day, the first of November, and All Souls' Day, the second, are associated strongly with Catholic tradition and belief. All Saints celebrates the memory of every Catholic saint and martyr, known and unknown, whereas All Souls' day centers on the remembrance of those who departed this world. The two are usually considered as a continuum by most Italians, who use these days as a moment to reflect and remember the departed.

 

THE IMMACULATE CONCEPTION

The Feast of the Immaculate Conception takes place on the eighth of  December and it is, generally, a Holy Day of Obligation. The faithful are required to attend Mass, where they commemorate when Mary was graced by God to lead a life completely free of sin.

 

FEAST OF ST. STEPHEN

The Feast of St. Stephen is celebrated on the twenty-sixth of December, the day after Christmas. It is part of the Twelve Days of Christmas, and honors the first martyr for the Newborn King, Stephen.

 

OTHER FEAST DAYS

 

Individual cities all over Italy celebrate the feast days of their patron saints. Some of the best known celebrations are on:

  • June, 24th: Florence, Genoa, and Turin honor St. John the Baptist.

  • June, 29th:  Rome honors Saints Peter and Paul.

  • July, 15th: Palermo honors St. Rosalia, a pious young woman credited for saving the city from plague in 1624.

  • September, 19th: Naples honors San Gennaro, a saint and martyr who died while visiting Christians imprisoned by the Empire and forced to work as slaves in sulphur mines for the crime of being Christian.

  • October, 4th: Bologna honors its patron saint, San Petronio and the entirety of Italy celebrates its national patron protrector, Saint Francis of Assisi. 

  • November, 3rd: Trieste honors San Giusto.

  • December, 7th: Milan honors St. Ambrose, one of the key founders of the early Roman Catholic Church.

  • November, 21st: Venice honors St. Mark. His feast day is actually April 25th, but since that is also Liberation Day, the city gives its patron saint his own holiday in November instead.

  •  

AUGUST

The month of August itself can be described as one long holiday. Dating back to Roman times, it has been common for everybody in Italy to escape the hottest time of the year by leaving the city and retreating to the countryside or the sea. It is a time for people to rest, travel, and just celebrate life in general.

 

Edited by Francesca Bezzone, 12/03/2014

Comments

Tuesday, April 21TH, 2009 by Guest

What happened to April 20th as a national holiday???

Wednesday, March 12TH, 2014 by FrancescaBezzone

I think you are thinking of April, the 25th, which is the Festa della Liberazione! :)

Friday, April 02TH, 2010 by Guest

Does the whole city shut down for this event? Are there any official events similar to Remembrance Day in the Netherlands?

Monday, April 25TH, 2011 by Guest

italy is awesomeee(:♥

Wednesday, May 18TH, 2011 by Guest

I would love to go on vacation for a whole month and enjoy life for what it is....life is only so short, you might as well live it to the max life. 

Wednesday, March 12TH, 2014 by FrancescaBezzone

I think we all agree with that... I have been living outside Italy for almost 15 years and I am going back in three weeks to try to enjoy a more peaceful, creative way of life. I am lucky, as I can "bring" my job with me, and I am happy with small things... but in the end, aren't the small pleasures of life what truly makes a difference in our happiness, at the end of the day? What do you guys think? 

Friday, May 20TH, 2011 by Guest

yo yo im lovin this italy stuff!!! mmmmmm pasta! <3<3 

Tuesday, May 24TH, 2011 by Guest

can you put more i got a assignment Jew on Monday 30th of May

Friday, December 09TH, 2011 by Guest

Im italian 50 percent.

Tuesday, January 17TH, 2012 by Guest

there is a place in italy that is the same name as my last name (spinazzola)

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