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Christmas  -  Christmas in Italy

Here, the celebration lasts for three weeks. It starts from December 6th, known as "La Festa di San Nicola" and ends with the Christmas Eve on December 24th followed by the feast of Epiphany (January 6th). In Italy, it's the time of religious observance. It starts with Novena eight days before Christmas when the children in groups visit houses reciting Christmas poems and in return they get small amount of money which they buy sweets or presents.

Another popular tradition is children write letters to their parents conveying their love and respect. The letters are opened on the Christmas Eve (La Vigilia di Natale) dinner table. On the day, people lit candles and children take turn to tell Christmas stories of the holy birth of Jesus. Later, families gather around 'Presepio' and pray. After that people relish their late night Christmas Eve dinner that comprises of traditional sea food followed by "feast of the seven fishes" mainly in the southern France with Christmas desserts like pandoro, panettone, torrone etc.

On the Christmas day crowd gather in the Vatican Square where the Pope blesses them all. Children receive their gifts on January 6th by 'La Befana' a kind old ugly witch instead of Santa. According to the legend it says that, the Three Wise Men on their way to Bethlehem stopped at her to ask direction of Bethlehem and invited her to join them; but she refused. Later, a shepherd even invited her to pay respect to Baby Jesus and again she refused. Afterwards, she realized her mistake but it was too late. She gathered her child’s toys who was dead and went out to search for the kings and shepherds or the stable. But unable to find any one of them each year thereafter she flies on her broomstick and leave gifts for good children and coal for the bad or naughty ones.
 
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