Emilia Romagna and its curious Christmas nativity scenes

Today we are in Emilia Romagna with the Alps behind us. The landscape becomes more gentle with the great Po River, the Adriatic Sea and the Apennine mountains to define the borders.

Emilia Romagna is a region rich in Christmas traditions related to the food and wine culture. We leave others to talk about it. However, we like to tell you some curious Christmas beliefs.

On Christmas Eve tradition is to prepare the famous cappelletti or tortellini, typical Christmas Day dish. The preparation of those should be ended at the sound of the bells announcing the Christmas Eve Mass, so that everyone can attend it.


The Christmas table is decorated by tablecloth printed with rust, especially in Rimini. Linen or canapone were once printed with the characteristic designs of “cockerel” or “grape” by an old machine called “mangano”. The rust obtained by macerating iron in water creates a special colour.

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Friuli Venezia Giulia and its Christmas with fire and magic

And we finally arrive to the east border, in Friuli Venezia Giulia! Where Christmas traditions and stories find their origin long time ago.

Friuli Venezia Giulia is Italy’s most North-Eastern region. It borders Austria to the north and Slovenia to the east. While to the south it faces the Adriatic Sea. The major transport routes between the east and west of southern Europe pass through this region. And that’s why Friuli Venezia Giulia’s history is a mix of cultures and traditions.

Friuli Venezia Giulia’s Christmas traditions come from cultural mosaic. From December to January, from the sea to the mountains, a Central European mixture of ancient legends and folklore live on the streets and the most picturesque corners.

The Christmas spirit is more intense in the small towns “guarded” by the Eastern Alps. The rural sacredness and simplicity reign in a frame of snow and mountains.

On Christmas Eve, if a girl looks in the mirror with her hair down at midnight, she will see the image of the predestined groom.

Once in Friuli in fact the Christmas traditions were linked to magical beliefs. And still today you can feel the atmosphere.

A very common practice in the region is the setting on fire of the Nadalin (also called “zòc”) on the night of Christmas Eve. It has pagan origins but in Christian times has taken on a symbolic meaning. The Nadalin is a big log generally beech, oak or mulberry tree that is lit in the fireplace. According to the tradition, the Nadalin had to remain lighted on until the New Year, but if you could keep it burning until Epiphany, this would bring good fortune to the whole house. Once the festivity ended the coals of “zòc” were carefully preserved and used to light the fire when threatened by bad weather.nadalin

Together with the splinters of the Yule log, blessed olive tree leaves and some juniper branches were also burned deeming this practice a powerful talisman against witchcrafts and, generally, against bad luck.

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Trentino South Tyrol and its traditional Christmas Advent

Brrrr we are back in the mountains! But what a wonderful view! We are in Trentino South Tyrol, where you can breath the Christmas atmosphere all over.

Trentino South Tyrol is bordered by Austria and by Switzerland to the north-west. It is extremely mountainous, covering a large part of the Dolomites and the southern Alps. Two provinces, Trentino in the south and South Tyrol in the north, compose the region.


Trentino South Tyrol has always been a land of borders. Geomorphic boundaries between valleys, mountains and uplands. But also borders and meeting points between different cultures, still a mixture of German, Italian and Ladin. These intersections combined with the relatively isolated location of some valleys have made the territory unique and particularly rich in history and traditions preserved until today.

In Trentino South Tyrol during the month of December people follow an Advent chronological journey. It begins on the 6th of December with the feast of St. Nicholas and Krampus. Then it gets to the celebration of Saint Lucia on 13th of December. Followed by the twelve magical waking nights between Christmas and Epiphany with the ceremony of the Star and the Three Wise Men.

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