Away from the manger: the Italian Christmas Tradition of the Presepio

Away from the manger.

Christmas in Florence: The streets are all decked out in pretty Christmas lights, the shop windows around the historical city centre sparkle with stunning decorations, the Christmas market in Piazza Santa Croce is in full swing.

And Piazza del Duomo in front of the stunning Cathedral in Florence is even more breathtaking than ever.

Set up by the entrance to the must-see site in Florence is not only a mega Christmas tree, but also another, more historical Italian Christmas tradition: the Presepio.

The tradition of the Presepio is said to date back to Etruscan and Roman times. However, over time it grew into a Christian tradition with the first holy Presepio being attributed to St. Francis in 1223.

St. Francis is said to have created a live crib replete with live animals and real-life holy family members.

Nowadays, whilst Italian Christmas traditions do vary from region to region, a Presepio will usually be set up not only in each town’s main square, but also in churches, storefronts and even in private homes.

The most famous area in Italy for the making of Presepio figurines is in Naples, with the most famous street for finding these unique things to buy in Italy being on Via San Gregorio Armeno.

The Presepio and other Christmas decorations are traditionally set up in Italy for the 8th December, the Feast of the Immaculate Conception which marks the official start to the festive season.

The Italian Presepio depicts Mary and Joseph standing by the manger. But right now in the lead-up to Christmas one thing is missing: the baby Jesus.

Italians will not place the baby Jesus figurine in his manger until he his actual birth date on 25th December.

On both 20th and 27th December, we’re offering a special Florence Christmas tour (other dates available upon request).

To explore Italy at any time of year, check out Artviva Walking Tours website for tours we have to offer in Florence, RomeVeniceCinque Terre, Umbria, Naples, Pompeii and more.

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