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Italy Christmas Traditions

Christmas, known as the Novena, in Italy is celebrated for three weeks. It starts 8 days before Christmas. During this period, children go from house to house reciting Christmas poems and singing.
In some parts of Italy shepherds take musical instruments into the villages, play and sing Christmas songs. Children go from house to house wearing clothes as shepherds, playing pipes, singing and reciting Christmas poems before a week of Christmas.

They are given money to buy gifts. A strict feast is organized for 24 hours before Christmas Eve and is followed by a celebration meal, in which a light Milanese cake called panetoni features or chocolate.

At noon on Christmas Day the pope gives his blessing to crowds gathered in the huge Vatican square. Gifts 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 Presipio, prayers are held and children recite poems. Italian children wait until Epiphany, January 6, for their gifts. According to tradition, the gifts are presented 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 gifts at each 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.