The holidays are a very festive time, and Christmas in Italy is no exception. Italians celebrate the holidays over several weeks, starting on December 8 until the day of Epiphany, on January 6. Whether you visit Italy during that time or want to brush up on your vocabulary, here is how to say Merry Christmas and Happy New Year in Italian.
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Christmas in Italy
Italians celebrate Christmas much like many other cultures, including an abundance of twinkling lights, Christmas markets, festive trees, presents and family gatherings. They also love ornate nativity scenes (presepi), making this one of the most beloved festive traditions in Italy.
St. Francis of Assisi popularized this practice in 1223 after visiting Bethlehem the year before, but the idea of a recreating Jesus’ birth goes even further. The first Nativity scene was staged in 1025 at the Church of S. Maria del presepe (Saint Mary of the Nativity) in Naples. Today, Naples is well-known for its Nativity scene craft, so if you’re looking to set up your own, this is the place to visit.
Celebrations between Christmas and New Year’s
Christmas celebrations begin on December 8 with the Feast of the Immaculate Conception (Festa dell’Immacolata Concezione). This is the time cities turn on the festive lights and families decorate their homes.
On December 13, certain parts of the country celebrate Saint Lucy’s Day (Santa Lucia). Traditionally, Santa Lucia brought gifts to children on her donkey and much like they do for Santa Claus, the children would leave out tea for her and flour for her donkey.
Beginning with the Novena (nine days) on December 16, families attend special masses for religious observations. You’ll often see bagpipers (zampognari) playing festive songs at markets across the country.
On December 24, Italians celebrate Christmas Eve (la vigilia di Natale) with family gatherings and Midnight Mass. Many families have their big dinners on this day before church, continuing the food and family gatherings on Christmas Day. Saint Stephen’s Day (Santo Stefano), known to North Americans as Boxing Day, is another opportunity for family gatherings and Christmas leftovers.
On New Year’s Eve (Capodanno), Italians celebrate with fireworks and parties, just like everyone else. The holiday celebrations come to an end with the Epiphany on January 6. This is when la Befana (Italian witch) flies in on her broom, leaving sweats for those that were good and coal for those that were bad.
How to say Merry Christmas and Happy New Year in Italian
The most common way to say Merry Christmas in Italian is Buon Natale. Another common saying is Buon Feste, which translated to Happy Holidays. Often the two are used together, so you can say Buon Natale e Buone Feste. You might also use the shorter version of Auguri to wish someone a Merry Christmas in Italian.
Buon Natale e Felice Anno Nuovo combines Merry Christmas and Happy New Year in Italian. You can also say Felice Anno Nuovo (Happy New Year) or Buon Anno (good year).
How to say Merry Christmas in Italian
|Buon Natale||Merry Christmas|
|Ti auguro un Buon Natale||I wish you a Merry Christmas|
|Auguro a tutti Voi un Natale Sereno||I wish you all a Merry Christmas|
|Buone Feste||Happy Holidays|
|Buon Natale e Buone Feste||Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays|
|Auguri per un Natale sereno||Best wishes for a peaceful Christmas|
|Auguro a te e alla tua famiglia un sereno Natale||Wishing you and your family a peaceful Christmas|
|Auguro a te e alla tua famiglia un Ti auguro un Natale pieno di amore e felicità||I wish you a Christmas full of love and happiness|
|I miei migliori auguri per un Natale pieno di gioia||My very best wishes for a Christmas full of joy|
Italian Christmas vocabulary
|gli addobbi natalizi||Christmas decorations|
|l’albero di Natale||Christmas tree|
|Babbo Natale||Santa Claus|
|il biglietto di Natale||Christmas card|
|le canzoni di Natale||Christmas carols|
|la cena di Natale||Christmas dinner|
|la messa di Natale||Christmas (church) service|
|i regali di Natale||Christmas presents|
|il presepe||Nativity scene|
|l’elfo / il folletto||elf|
|la ghirlanda||Christmas wreath|
|il pupazzo di neve||snowman|
|i Re Magi||the three wise kings|
|lo spirito natalizio||the Christmas spirit|
|la vigilia di Natale||Christmas Eve|
|bastoncino di zucchero||candy cane|
|mercatini di Natale||Christmas market|
How to say Happy New Year in Italian
|Buone feste e tanti auguri||Happy Holidays and best wishes|
|Buon anno||Good year|
|Felice Anno Nuovo||Felice Anno Nuovo|
|Auguri per un felice 2022||Best wishes for a happy 2022|
|Buon anno! Auguri per un felice 2022!||Happy New Year! Best wishes for a happy 2022!|
|Capodanno||New Year’s Eve|
Now that you know how to say Merry Christmas and Happy New Year in Italian, you’re ready to go out and have fun. Italy is a great year-round destination, so why not visit during the holidays? It’s a great way to get into the holiday spirit and practice your Italian.