Rome Italy skyline

Christmas in Rome

Best Rome Christmas Guide

Considering a Christmas in Rome? This is a wonderful city to celebrate the Holidays. There are many special activities, events and celebrations going on and it's the perfect place to focus on the real meaning of Christmas.

Vatican City is the center of the Rome Christmas Spiritual celebration. Also, there are plenty of Christmas concerts, musical events, activities, markets and more going on all around the city.

You will find a Rome Italy Christmas is not as "commercial" as in the United States....less decorations and not as much focus on shopping. December 26th is St. Stephen's Feast Day and a National holiday in Italy... so restaurants and shops may be closed both December 25 & 26.

Christmas at St. Peter's Basilica

The Spiritual heart of Rome is Vatican City and St. Peter's Basilica, so make sure and visit this area on your Rome Christmas vacation.

St. Peter's Square at Christmas has a huge Christmas tree and a life size nativity that is unveiled on Christmas Eve and stays up until Epiphany which is January 6.

Pope Benedict presides over Midnight Mass (actually at 10pm) on Christmas Eve in St Peter's Basilica. Tickets are required for the mass and they are free. You can get tickets here. If they are sold out, you can watch the mass on the big video screen in St. Peter's Square.

On Christmas Day, Pope Benedict will give his Christmas blessing or Urbi et Orbi Blessing, from his Vatican apartment balcony at 10am. Go to St. Peter's Square to be a part of this Christmas tradition.

Catholic Christmas in Rome

Rome has over 600 churches! Most of them will have the traditional Christmas Crib on display from Christmas Eve until Epiphany, January 6. Make it a point to stop in some of the churches you pass and enjoy the wide variety of Christmas creche's in Rome's churches...and don't forget to light a candle and say a prayer :)

Below are some special spiritual things to do during your Christmas in Rome:

  • Pantheon - Midnight Mass at the Pantheon Christmas Eve.
  • St. Lucia Day procession on December 13 that ends up at St. Peter's Square.

  • by Matthiaskabel
  • Santa Maria Maggiore Basilica - crypt beneath the Blessed Sacrament Chapel is a reproduction of the cave at Bethlehem. The Christmas crib with its carved marble statues by Arnolfo de Cambio c. 1289 is one of the finest and oldest. In the altar area you will find a reliquary which holds five pieces of wood that are supposedly from the Holy Manger of Christ from Bethlehem. Pope Theodore supposedly brought them to Rome in 638, after the fall of Jerusalem.
  • Church of Saints Cosma and Damiano - this church located above the Roman Forum has a permanent very large Neapolitan Crib in the cloister. This beautiful crib was made in the 18th century using wood, cloth, teracotta and porcelain. The wooden figures were carved by 6 master woodcarvers.
  • Church of Santa Maria Aracoeli - on Capitoline Hill. In this 7th-century church you will find the Santo Bambino, a 16th century statue, carved from olive wood from the Holy Land's Garden of Gethsemane. The statue was "miraculously painted". When is was being brought to Rome, the ship sank but the statue washed up on shore. In the early 1990's, the statue was stolen and a new one was commissioned from olive wood from the Holy Land. On Christmas Eve Christmas Eve candles line the 124 steep steps leading up to the church's entrance and the statue is put in the church's manger.

Piazza Navona Christmas Market

The Christmas Market at Plaza Navona is fun for the whole family. You will find a variety of items for sale including many Nativity Cribs, toys, a carousel, sweets, hot roasted chestnuts and more.

by Seanoneill

Keep your eyes open for Befana, a legendary character popular in central Italy. Sometimes she makes a visit to Piazza Navona at Christmas :)

There are several different stories and legends about Befana. Some involve Epiphany, the Christian feast celebrating when the 3 wise men (Kings) found the baby Jesus by following the "Bethlehem" star.

The most common tradition says that Befana is an old woman who visits children bringing them either candy or coal, depending on how they have behaved.

by Boricuaeddie

Best Rome Christmas Trees

Check out these Christmas Trees in Rome: St. Peter's Square, Piazza Venezia, Colosseum and in front of the Capitoline Hill Museums.

International Museum Typological Crib

The Museo Tipologico Internazionale del Presepio is located in the basement of the Church of Ss. Quirico e Giulitta (Via Tor de' Conti 31A). This Christmas Crib Museum was founded in 1967 by the Angelo Stefanucci Association. The creches (nativity scenes) come from all over the world and include a wide variety of styles, cultural influences and materials. These Presepio are made of wood, ceramics, glass, pearl, stone, cloth, eggs, coal and much more. One of the oldest cribs is made of shells and dates back to the seventeenth century (Sicily) and a ivory child also is from the same time period.

The International Museum Typological Crib is open from December 24 to January 6, 4-8 p.m. Monday to Friday and holidays 10 a.m.-1 p.m. and 3-8 p.m. Admission is free but donations are welcome.

Rome Italy Christmas Traditions

Castel Sant'Angelo

A favorite activity during Christmas in Rome is ice skating at the skating rink near Castel Sant'Angelo. The rink is lit up at night. Also, check out the small Christmas market nearby.

Rome Christmas Food

Sweeten your Christmas in Rome with these Italian Christmas treats.

  • Panettone is a traditional Christmas Cake made in Italy. It originally was filled with candied peel but now there are many varieties. They are wrapped in pretty Christmas paper and given to friends and family.
  • Torrone are chocolate bars filled with nuts or nougat and wrapped in Christmas paper.
Christmas Dinner in Rome

Many Italians go out to dinner on Christmas Eve. Be sure to make reservations ahead of time if you plan on eating out over the Christmas holidays. Some restaurants are closed and the reservations fill quickly, so keep this in mind on your Christmas in Rome vacation.

Rome Hanukkah

In Piazza Barberini you can find a large Menorrah to celebrate Hanukkah. One candle is lit each night of the Hanukkah season.

Rome Christmas Events

  • The Nutcracker at Teatro dell'Opera, various dates between Dec. 20-30
  • A Christmas Carol - Puppet show by San Carline Theatre Company at Teatro San Carlino in Villa Borghese, between Dec. 8 - Jan. 8.
  • Christmas Concert - Annual Christmas Concert at The Accademia Nazionale di Santa Cecilia, Fri. Dec. 23 at 7pm.
  • Annual Rome Gospel Festival - the following U.S. Gospel singers will perform:
    • Dec. 20 - James Hall & Worship Praise
    • Dec. 25 - Walt Whitman Chicago Choir
    • Dec. 29 - The Brown Sisters

Here is detailed information on other Rome events and entertainment.

Christmas in Rome Tour

Join a unique Christmas Eve Tour of the Vatican. This magical tour includes the Sistine Chapel. It begins at 2:30pm and more information can be found at Dark Rome Tours.

I hope this guide helps you plan the best Christmas in Rome!

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