List of Italian Holidays and Celebrations

In the beautiful country of Italy, there are many celebrations and holidays: most that revolve around feast in honor of Saints or other religious holidays.

With their vibrant lifestyle, spending a holiday in their culture would be a grand party that you would always remember.

Il Capodanno (New Year's Day) - January 1

In celebration of the New Year, many Italians celebrate with a huge feast with friends and family, followed by dancing and fireworks. Meals generally last most of the day and have several courses. A popular ingredient for the day is lentils as tradition holds that the more you eat, the more wealth you will gain.

In Piazza Maggiore (in Bologna), people build a large straw puppet which they call Vecchione which is burned at midnight to symbolize the destruction of the previous year. In other cities, people celebrate more traditionally with fireworks or other shows.

Epifania/La Befana (Epiphany) - January 6

This day celebrates the 12th day of Christmas (typically known as the Day of Epiphany), traditionally when the wise men visited Jesus while he was still a baby. A good witch, La Befana, (who probably helped meld our modern-day Santa Claus) is said to also visit homes the night before, to give gifts to children.

Giornata Nazionate Della Bandiera (Flag Day) - January 7

Recognized principally in Reggio nell'Emili, this day celebrates the Italian flag.

Giorno della Memoria (Remembrance Day) - January 27

On January 27, Italians commemorate Remembrance Day in memory of those who suffered and died due to the holocaust. January 27 was chosen as Remembrance Day because on that day in 1945, the Russian Army liberated those held captive at the Auschwitz concentration camp.

San Biagio (Patron Saint of Doues) - February 3

A day where Italians celebrate with two special feasts to honor San Biagio (Saint Blaise). San Biagio is known for being the patron saint of wool farmers and was martyred in circa 316 AD.

San Rinaldo (Patron Saint of Nocera Umbra) - February 9

Another day for feasting to celebrate San Rinaldo (c. 1150-1217), the son of Napoleon (Count of Postignano). Rinaldo became a bishop of Nocera Umbra and is now a saint of the Catholic church.

Festa Degli Innamorati, San Valentino (Saint Valentines Day) - February 14

Italians celebrate Valentines Day by giving many gifts to those they love - especially to their special someone.

La Festa della Donna (Women's Day) - March 8

Traditionally, Italian men will give yellow mimosas to women on Women's day. The day isn't a national holiday, but many celebrate it in recognition of the equality that women worked so hard to gain in Italy.

Martedi Grasso (Mardi Gras) - Day Before Ash Wednesday

A day for feasting on everything that you can't eat during lent. Often celebrated with parades and parties. Martedi Grasso is typically preceded by a week called Carnevale (Carnival) in which people eat, drink and break all sorts of rules (before starting Lent the next day) while wearing a mask. In Italy, the day used to be celebrated mostly by adults, but now it is geared more for children. There are many parades with floats and masked riders in several of the communities.

Mercoledi di Ceneri (Ash Wednesday) - March/April

The first day of Lent. Many celebrate by fasting and receiving ashes on their forehead.

San Ilario and San Taziano (Patron Saints of Gorizia) - March 16

A Christian feast day to celebrate the lives of San Ilario and San Taziano.

Festa del Papà (Father's Day) - March 19

A day that Italians celebrate their fathers and all the things they mean to them. March 19th was chosen for the day because it is also St. Joseph's Day (the father of Christ). St. Joseph's Day has been celebrated for centuries, but it wasn't until after the second world war that Father's Day was instituted. The day is typically celebrated with family feasts (the traditional treat zeppola is often served) where anyone who comes to the house is welcome to join. Gifts are generally given in honor of the father.

San Proietto (Patron Saint of Randazzo) - March 19

On March 19, Italians celebrate the life of San Proietto (Saint Praejectus). San Proietto (625–676) was a bishop of Clermont who founded hospitals, monasteries and churches. He was killed as a result of political struggles of the day. He was killed (by stabbing) by Agritius, who believed that the San Proietto had been responsible for Lord Hector’s (a political figure) death.

Domenica delle Palme (Palm Sunday) - Week Before Easter - March/April

Instead of bringing palm branches (which are rare in Italy), Italians bring olive sprigs, branches and even trees to the to church as a sign of peace.

Venerdì Santo (Good Friday) - March/April

Many Italians celebrate Good Friday (the day of Jesus Christ's execution) by participating in processions with religious icons or going to a church service.

Pasqua (Easter Sunday) - March/April

As with many countries that are dominantly Christian, Easter is an important holiday in Italy as it celebrates the day that Jesus Christ rose from dead. Celebration for Easter is generally started the week before (Palm Sunday) and continued throughout the week (including Good Friday). In Italy both the religious and non-religious celebrate the day by giving and eating chocolate bunnies and eggs and dining with family and friends. Since Easter is at the end of Lent, Italians celebrate by eating many of their favorite foods which they may have forgone for Lent.

Pasquetta, Lunedi di Pasqua (Easter Monday) - Monday after Easter

Pasquetta (little Easter) is a national holiday that takes place the day after Easter. It is a day for relaxation and leisure.

Pesce d'Aprile (April Fools Day) - April 1

Just as many other countries, Italy celebrates Pesce d'Aprile by playing pranks and other practical jokes on each other. There is another tradition, however, that involves school children taping a cutout of a fish to another student's clothing as a joke.

Festa della Liberazione (Liberation Day) - April 25

Italians celebrate Festa della Liberazione to celebrate of the end of World War II and the fact that Italy was liberated from German control on April 25, 1945 (which had lasted more than 20 years). It is one of Italy's more important holidays, and many commemorate those who died to bring Liberty to Italy (Italians, English and American soldiers).

La Festa di San Marco (Patron Saint of Venezia) - April 25

To celebrate la festa di San Marco, many gondoliers in Venice partecipate in a gondola race called Regata di Traghetti. The day is in honor of Saint Mark the Evangelist (who is considered Venice's patron saint).

Festa del Lavoro (May Day) - May 1

This isn't considered a major holiday, but many take the day to spend time with their families or get things done around the houses. As it is also Labor Day, some people protest for better wages and benefits for employees.

Festa della Mamma (Mother's Day) - Second Sunday in May

On the second sunday in May, Italians celebrate their mothers. Italians based Festa della Mama on the United State's Holiday, "Mother's Day," and was first celebrated in Italy in 1957. Children often give their mother's drawings or trinkets that the made in school or write or recite poetry for them. Adults celebrate the day by giving their mothers gifts and recognition. The pink azalea has become Italy's symbol for Mother's Day. Proceeds for purchased azalea plants generally go to research for women's disease.

Festa della Repubblica (Republic Day) - June 2

Festa della Repubblica is a day where Italians celebrate their decision to abolish their monarchy and become a republic in the year 1946. Many celebrate with parades and other festivities.

San Giovanni Battista (Patron Saint of Firenze) - June 24

A day to celebrate the life of San Giovanni Battista.

San Pietro and San Paolo (Patron Saints of Roma) - June 29

On this day, Italians celebrate the lives of San Pietro (Saint Peter) and San Paolo (Saint Paul). Many attend a service or visit the vatican.

Santa Rosalia (Patron Saint of Palermo) - July 15

On July 15, Italians celebrate the life of Santa Rosalia (1130-1166), who was reported to have lived in a cave that she had been led to by two angels. The people of Palermo suffered a plague in 1624. Two people reported seeing her come to them (the second was a hunter). She told them where they could find her remains and urged them to parade them around Palermo. When they obeyed, the plague ended and the town celebrated her by building a sanctuary over the location of her remains.

Ferragosto / Assunzione (Day of the Assumption) - August 15

This is a Catholic holiday that celebrates Mary being taken into heaven on the day of her death. There are generally many parades held on this day.

San Gennaro (Patron Saint of Napoli) - September 19

San Gennaro (Saint Januarius) was martyred in circa 305. Legend has it that some of his blood (that had been preserved in a glass ampoule) liquifies three times a year and many who honor him will visit Naples to witness the miracle.

Salone del Gusto (Held once every other year in October)

Salone del Gusto is an important wine and food event that is held in Turin every other year in the month of October. Italians not only celebrate Italian food, but food from all around the world!

San Petronio (Patron Saint of Balogna) - October 4

A day to celebrate the life of San Petronio.

La Festa di Ognissanti (All Saints Day) - November 1

La Festa di Ognissanti is considered a national holiday in Italy and many Italians spend the day attending Mass and celebrating with a family feast. Many also visit the Saint Peter's Basilica at the Vatican, though the museums and other tourist attractions are generally closed due to the holiday.

Il Giorno dei Morti (Day of the Dead) - November 2

Though Italians visit the graves of their loved-ones often, on November 2, the cemeteries are crowded as people go to remember the dead. The origins of Il Giorno dei Morti involve a belief that on this day, the dead would be able to contact the living. Italians also eat a soft cookie called Ossi dei Morti (which translated to "bones of the dead") in celebration of Il Giorno dei Morti.

San Giusto (Patron Saint of Foliano della Chiana) - November 3

A day to celebrate the life of San Giusto.

San Martino (Patron Saint of Foliano della Chiana) - November 11

A day to celebrate the life of San Martino.

San Nicola (Patron Saint of Bari) - December 6

This day is set aside to celebrate the life of San Nicola (Saint Nicholas) who is the Patron Saint of Bari. Saint Nicholas (270-343) was known for secretly putting coins in shoes that have been left out and other secret gift giving, which is why he eventually became the inspiration for Santa Clause. The city of Bari holds a shrine in his honor.

Sant'Ambrogio (Patron Saint of Milano) - December 7

Italians celebrate the life of Saint Ambrose on December 7 each year. The celebrations include a special service in one of Milan's oldest churches, as well as a special market where visitors can sample various foods and drinks.

Immacolata Concezione (Immaculate Conception) - December 8

Immacolata Concezione is a holiday celebrated by Catholics who believe that Mary was pure of sin. On this day, the pope prays and lays a wreath at the stature, Madonna at the Piazza Mignanelli.

Natale (Christmas) - December 25

In Italy, Natale is considered the most important festival of the year. Christmas, as in many other countries) is a Christian (in Italy it is considered primarily Catholic) holiday that celebrates the birth of Jesus Christ. Additionally, as in many other countries, many who are not Christians still celebrate the holiday.

Many Italian families decorate a Christmas tree anywhere from the second week of December to Christmas day. It is also fairly common to decorate with a nativity scene (figurines of those present at the birth of Jesus).

Santo Stefano (St. Stephen's Day) - December 26

St. Stephen (Santo Stefano) was the first Christian martyr and is commemorated on December 26. Italians generally use the day to visit living nativity scenes, though in some parts of the country parades are held.

Notte di San Silvestro (St. Sylvester's Day) - December 31

A day for remembering St. Sylvester. Many will wear red underwear or drop old things they don't use anymore from their windows.

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