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Buon Natale! Christmas in Italy
Part 2: Vocabulary and Holiday Music Traditions
 More of this Feature
• Pagan Origins
• Children's Activities
• Christmas Recipes
• Travel To Italy
• Traditions
• Italian Christmas Jokes
• Italian Christmas Quiz
 
 Join the Discussion
"Traveled to Italy during Christmas, have a recipe or a memorable holiday tradition? Share it here!"
Italian SiteGuide
 
 Related Resources
• History of Creches
• Italian Holidays
 
 From Other Guides
• Christmas Past
• German Christmas
• Have A Frugal Christmas
• La Vigilia Napoletana
• New Year's Eve Menu
 
 Elsewhere on the Web
• An Italian Christmas
• Christmas in Italy
• Sicilian Christmas
 
 

Whether it's a solemn hymn, a Victorian-era melody, or a modern rock version of Jingle Bells, Christmas music is an integral part of the holiday celebration. Not only did Christmas originate in Italy, but it was also the birthplace of the first Christmas carol.

Christmas Carols Originated In Italy
During the thirteenth century, among the early Franciscans, Saint Francis of Assisi introduced the carol, which soon spread all over Europe. He had a particular devotion and affection for the mysteries of the holy childhood of Jesus.

Saint Francis wrote a Christmas hymn in Latin—Psalmus in Nativitate—but there is no evidence that he composed carols in Italian. His companions and spiritual sons, however, the first Franciscan friars, contributed a large number of Italian Christmas carols. Here is the English translation of one of these thirteenth-century Italian carols. The tune has become very familiar as the theme on which Handel developed his Pastoral Symphony in the Messiah:

In Bethlehem is born the Holy Child,
On hay and straw in the winter wild;
O, my heart is full of mirth
At Jesus' birth.

No Time At All
The Italian language is rich in expressions and idioms, and Christmas time is no different. For example, durare da Natale a Santo Stefano means to last from Christmas to St. Stephen's Day (December 26), i.e., no time at all.

Italian Christmas Vocabulary List
Click to hear the highlighted word spoken by a native speaker.

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