What to do in Rome this Christmas?

What to do in Rome this Christmas?

Rome is a top Italian city to visit during the Christmas holiday season and the place where the celebration of Christmas originated. The first Christmas mass was said at the Church of Santa Maria Maggiore and the earliest known permanent nativity was created for the Rome Jubilee in 1300.

Here are the top Rome Christmas sights during the Christmas holiday season, from early December through to January 6.

Christmas Market in Piazza Navona 

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In December Piazza Navona, Rome’s famous Baroque square, is transformed into a huge Christmas market. You’ll find stands selling all kinds of Christmas sweets, toys, nativity figures, decorations, and gifts. There’s a merry-go-round and Babbo Natale, Father Christmas, makes an appearance to delight the kids. A large nativity scene is erected in the square later in December, too.

Christmas Tree in Saint Peter’s Square 

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Each year a huge Christmas tree is erected in Saint Peter’s Square. A life-size nativity is also set up but usually not unveiled until Christmas Eve. Thousands of visitors flock to Saint Peter’s Square when the Pope says midnight mass on Christmas Eve inside Saint Peter’s Basilica (in the square it’s shown on big screen TVs) and delivers his Christmas message at noon on Christmas Day from the window of his apartment above the square. December 13 there’s a colourful parade in Saint Peter’s Square for Santa Lucia Day.

13th century nativity in Santa Maria Maggiore

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The nativity in Santa Maria Maggiore is said to be the oldest nativity scene. It was carved in marble by Arnolfo di Cambio in the late 13th century, a commission for the first Rome Jubilee held in 1300. Although originally displayed in the church, it’s currently on display in the museum of Santa Maria Maggiore. Below the altar is a reliquary said to contain pieces of the original manger. It’s kept in a niche the same dimensions as the cave where Jesus was born. The first Christmas mass was said in Santa Maria Maggiore. The bells are rung at midnight to signify the start of Christmas.

Santo Bambino in the Church of Santa Maria Aracoeli

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In the 16th century, a statue was carved from a piece of olive wood from the Garden of Gethsemane. According to legend, after the statue was carved it miraculously painted itself. Returning to Rome, the ship sank but the statue washed up on shore. It was blessed by the Pope and kept in the Church of Santa Maria Aracoeli on the Capitoline Hill. In the early 1990’s, the original was stolen so a new piece of olive wood was requested to carve a reproduction, again blessed by the Pope. Roman children write their Christmas letters to Santo Bambino. On Christmas Eve the statue is put in the church’s presepe and on January 6, he’s paraded down the church stairs. Thousands of people come for the procession.

Lights, Ice Skating and Roasting Chestnuts

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Rome’s main streets are decorated with lights and often have entertainment by roving musicians and vendors selling roasted chestnuts. A good place to go is the shopping streets near Piazza di Spagna. An outdoor ice skating rink, open daily from 10:00 to midnight (with earlier closing on the actual holidays) is set up near Castel Sant’Angelo where there’s also a small Christmas market.

Menorrah in Piazza Barberini

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Rome has a large Jewish population and Hanukkah is another important holiday celebrated in December. A large Menorah is erected in Piazza Barberini and one candle is lit each night during the Hanukkah season.

Go and see a Ballet

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There are so many beautiful Church concerts to attend also. Mulled wine, Christmas shopping and a ballet at the Teatro dell Opera, make Rome one of those most beautiful cities to be in, during the Christmas holiday period.

Not to mention, fireworks at the Spanish steps on the 31st December,

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