The most important holiday of the year is approaching all over the world, so today we will talk about Italian Christmas gifts.
Presents are a major component of this season and Italy is no exception.
In fact, we attribute the bringing of these gifts to not one, but up to four characters whom we will discuss below.
He was a bishop known as San Nicola di Bari, in Apulia (Puglia), although in the Western world, he is known as San Nicola di Mira, an ancient town in what is now Turkey, where the saint lived and died.
Saint Nicola is buried in the basilica that bears his name, located in Bari. He was a bishop known for his miracles.
Still, most particularly for his generosity: it is said that he distributed the fortune he inherited from his parents to the poor and then went to live in Anatolia (Turkey).
Many of the good works he carried out are marked by anonymity.
Saint Nicola is the basis of who would become Santa Claus. He had very similar characteristics and his bishop’s vestments were red. In Italy, he is none other than Babbo Natale.
When talking about Italian Christmas gifts, we can’t forget Babbo Natale.
Known as Santa Claus in English-speaking countries, in some places he was known as Saint Nicholas until a few decades ago.
As we have just learned, Saint Nicholas did well without looking at whom and in a very discreet way.
Likewise, on the night of 24 December, our Babbo Natale travels the world in his reindeer sleigh to leave presents under the Christmas tree, quietly and inconspicuously.
It is customary to leave him a glass of milk and biscuits near the tree.
This is one way in which children receive Christmas presents in Italy (after writing a letter with the recipient’s address at the North Pole).
As we said before, like his Southern inspiration, Babbo Natale wears a red suit similar to the costume of Bishop San Nicola.
Although this is an imported tradition, it has become of one the most important Italian Christmas gift traditions.
Of course, not everyone will agree with the above statement, particularly La Befana. The poor thing must now share with Babbo Natale the place of honour as to who brings Christmas presents in Italy.
La Befana is a witch, not very graceful, who on the night of 5 January brings gifts to children who have behaved well and coal to those who have not.
The story of the Befana is a nice story of redemption.
The story of the befana:
The story goes that she was a witch whom the Three Wise Men, having lost their way, asked for guidance on their way to Bethlehem. She did not help them.
Then, bitten by remorse, she began to hand out gifts to every house. For this reason, the Befana and the Three Wise Men in Italy deliver gifts on the same day.
La Befana is essentially a tradition that was initially observed more in central and southern Italy than in the north (where Santa Lucia brought the gifts).
It is worth noting that, although it must share the place of honour with Babbo Natale, the Befana’s popularity as a symbol of Italian Christmas gifts has been rather increasing, even conquering the lands of Lombardy, Veneto, and neighbouring areas.
She is a saint from Syracuse who, in exchange for her mother’s health; consecrated herself to God and promised to remain a virgin.
This resulted in her martyrdom on 13 December.
This is the reason why we observe this day as Saint Lucy’s Day.
On her feast day, moreover, the children of Syracuse, Bergamo; and many places in Italy (generally in the north) who have behaved well receive gifts and sweets.
The importance of Santa Lucia is such that one of the most important fairs in Europe takes place in a small village in the province of Treviso, Santa Lucia di Piave.
It is a fair that is more than 1,300 years old and continues to be an event that brings together farmers and lovers of good food and drink.
And so we come to the end of this article on who brings Christmas gifts in Italy. We wish you happy holidays in the company of your loved ones.
And if possible, may you travel to Italy to enjoy these interesting traditions in person.
And if you are staying at home instead, we leave you with a list of the best Italian Christmas films.
Auguri di Buon Natale!