ArtsAutosBooksBusinessEducationEntertainmentFamilyFashionFoodGamesGenderHealthHolidaysHomeHubPagesPersonal FinancePetsPoliticsReligionSportsTechnologyTravel

Five unusual Christmas Festivals - Umbria, Italy

Updated on November 10, 2010

Christmas in the Upper Tiber Valley

Umbria in the centre of Italy knows how to enjoy its Christmas time and New Year. There are many festivals, spectacoli and parades for one to enter into or simply stand by and watch. If you are looking for somewhere to go where they are guaranteed to put a smile on your face over the festive season, then I suggest you check out the green heart of Italy and in particular the Upper Tiber Valley.

Worlds Tallest Christmas Tree
Worlds Tallest Christmas Tree

Canoeing Santa and the Worlds Tallest Tree

1) Babbo Natale in a Canoe, mid afternoon on Christmas day the Canoe Club of Citta di Castello set out on one of the greatest annual feasts. Their canoes all decked out in fairy lights and all the canoeists dressed as Santa (Babbo Natale) then paddle down the River Tiber to the landing stage at the Ponte Vecchio. Here the waiting Children are given sweets and presents as the canoes land. The whole of the riverbank is lined with torches that flicker in the early evening giving the event a very special atmosphere.

2) The Worlds tallest Christmas tree. On the slopes of Mount Ingino each year. Behind the town of Gubbio in the north of Umbria, the town’s folk layout a 800 metre tall, 400 metres wide image of a Christmas tree. It is made out of some 500 light bulbs and contains 2 Km of cabling and can be seen from miles around. It stands in the Guinness Book of Records as the Worlds tallest Christmas tree.

Befana, the Good Witch
Befana, the Good Witch

Nativity and the Witch

3) Befana, January 6th, Epiphany is also known as Befana in Italy this is when the Befana, who is a good witch is supposed to appear and give all the good children sweets, those who have not behaved well over the past year get a lump of coal. Truth be told it is a black sugar candy that looks like coal but has the same effect.  When the three kings were looking for Christ’s manger they stopped at an old hovel and ask the Befana, a wise old woman who lived the way. She pointed them in right direction but turned down an offer to join them. Later she realised her mistake and now spends eternity searching for the three wise men. on this day in any Italian Piazza you will find the Befana, Citta di Castello’s is provided by the Fire Service and traditionally abseils down the medieval tower.

4) The Living Nativity. In 1224 Saint Francis created the first living nativity scene around the manger in the town of Greccio, near Assisi. Using a simple straw filled feeding trough and with an ox and sheep in attendance he celebrated mass. All over Italy villages recreate the living prescepi each year, with stiff competition to get the prime roles. The best and obvious one to visit has to be the original though, which is still held in Greccio.

Peruvian Nativity
Peruvian Nativity

5) International Nativity Exhibition. Each year in the crypt of Citta di Castello’s Duomo they hold an international exhibition of miniature nativity scenes. These lovingly crafted dioramas of the birth of Christ come from all over the world with beautiful versions from Latin America, detailed professionally manufactured cribs from Naples and the wonderful creations of local school children. They are all special and although some are very disturbing renditions but comprise a wonderful collection of a simple message.

So whether you want to see Santa in a canoe, an abseiling fireman or frightening nativity scenes you will have a Christmas to remember if you visit some of the festive offerings in Umbria.


    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment

    • profile image


      9 years ago

      its beautiful

    • Carol the Writer profile image

      Carolyn Blacknall 

      9 years ago from Houston, Texas

      What a nice hub about Christmas Festivals in Italy! Beautiful pictures, too. Thanks for sharing. Keep up the good work. – Carol

    • knell63 profile imageAUTHOR


      9 years ago from Umbria, Italy

      lol, if only to see Santa in a canoe. Thats my personal favourite.

    • Hello, hello, profile image

      Hello, hello, 

      9 years ago from London, UK

      I thoroughly love reading about all these custom and I thank you for sharing. This is great.

    • CMHypno profile image


      9 years ago from Other Side of the Sun

      Fascinating Hub, knell63. I know where I'm going to spend Christmas next year!


    This website uses cookies

    As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

    For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at:

    Show Details
    HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
    LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
    Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
    AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
    Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
    CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the or domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
    Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
    Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
    Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
    Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
    ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)