By Staff Sgt. Heidi Goodsell, 31st Fighter Wing Public Affairs
/ Published December 02, 2020
For many people, the holidays hold a very special place in our hearts. They are days that mean more and where we can celebrate with our loved ones. That is no different here in Italy, as it is back home.
Italian holidays are almost the same as American holidays except for a few differences.
Many Italians attend church every year on Dec. 8th, to celebrate the Feast of the Immaculate Conception. According to Catholic belief, this day marks when Mary, mother of Jesus Christ, was graced by God to lead a life “free of sin”.
Christmas day is celebrated on Dec. 25, but on the 26th is St. Stephen’s Day. St. Stephen was stoned to death sometime around the year 33 CE and is believed to be the first Christian martyr. St. Stephen’s Day was made a public holiday in Italy in 1947.
The next biggest holiday is the Epiphany, widely known as La Befana. This is a particularly important day when it comes to Christmas celebrations in Italy. Epiphany is celebrated because it’s the day that the three Kings arrived in Bethlehem to worship Jesus. La Befana is from a fairytale in which she flies on a broomstick bringing presents to children in Italy. It is told she is searching for baby Jesus, and that is why she carries gifts with her. One of the biggest ways to celebrate this day is with a bonfire, which most municipalities participate in. The tradition of a bonfire dates back to the pre-Christian and Middle ages time period. Lighting a bonfire is meant to say goodbye to all the bad of the past year and make room for the good coming in the next year.
Fast-forward to April we have Good Friday, and Easter Sunday and Monday; these holidays are also widely celebrated stateside. A holiday in April that may not be familiar to Americans is the Italian Liberation Day, which takes place on 25th of April. Liberation Day marks the fall of the Nazi occupation of Italy.
The Feast of St. Mark is also on the 25th of April, mainly celebrated in Venice. This day of celebration is for St. Mark or San Marco, who died on April 25th in 68 CE. He was one of Jesus Christ’s disciples and believed to be the author of the Gospel of Mark. This holiday is celebrated in Venice because in 828 CE it is believed that the relics of St. Mark were moved to Venice, which attracted pilgrims from around Europe.
Republic Day on the second of June is another big holiday in Italy. On this day back in 1946, Italians voted to abolish the monarchy and their country became a republic.
On Aug. 15th is when the Assumption of Mary is celebrated. This is when, according to Christian belief, God assumed the Virgin of Mary into Heaven at the end of her life. Many Italians will hold processions that carry the statue of Mary.
All of these holidays have a rich history and meaning to the Italian culture, every day meaning something different to each person. Many traditions are different from those celebrated in the U.S., but being with our families is what makes the holidays special.