Would you like to celebrate Christmas in the city where the celebration of Christmas originated? The first Christmas mass was said to have been held at the Church of Santa Maria Maggiore in Rome, and the earliest known permanent nativity was created for the Rome Jubilee in 1300.
The Romans take this holiday very seriously and it’s quite a grand affair and a wonderful celebration to experience. It starts in early December with the lights going up, and then follows through to Epiphany on 6th January. Although it’s not as glitzy as in some cities, it tends to focus more on religious festivities and the real meaning behind Christmas. Of course they have fun too, there is a great atmosphere in the city and the Romans like to socialise and stay outside in the streets and the piazzas.
There are many sites in the city where you will find huge decorated and lit Christmas trees. There is usually one next to the Colosseum and the largest is in Piazza Venezia. From there you can wind through the medieval streets, lit up with Christmas lights and join the locals doing their holiday shopping and end up in Piazza Navona. This is the site of Rome’s annual Christmas market, a festival of stalls selling toys, Christmas ornaments, sweets, and other goods. Learn about Italian holiday decorations … and about 'vin brulè' – a warming and delicious mulled Christmas wine that you just have to try!
There is a large nativity scene in St Peter’s Square called “gargantuan presepe” and it is built in the centre of the square and is free to visit night and day. For those who want to experience Papal Midnight Mass at the Vatican, you can send a request via the Vatican’s website. However, the city is home to over 600 churches, all of which have their own services which you can join in for free.
There are two other very important things about visiting Rome at Christmas time that we should mention, one being the food of course ... well that needs a chapter on its own, and the second is that it is less crowded than in the spring and summer and you will have so much more space to explore.