Italy is a special country. Also when it comes to holidays and there are a lot of them. They don't know Sinterklaas (although?), but 'La Befana' does. A witch who brings gifts to good children on her broomstick. But not all children are obedient in Italy, for those Befana brings ashes and coal. But there are more Italian holidays.

The Italians are proud of their customs and customs around holidays. In addition to national holidays, there are also many regional and local festivals.

name days

Every village has its own saint whose name day is celebrated (sometimes exuberantly). Of course, the traditional Catholic holidays are not forgotten either.

In December, the national delicacy Panettone, an airy cake with fruit that is beautifully packaged and often given as gifts.

Official Italian holidays

In the list below you will find the official Italian holidays.

Date(s)Italian nameDutch name
January 1New YearNew Year's Day
January 6Epifania/BefanaEpiphany
March AprilEasterEaster Sunday
March AprilEaster MondayEaster Monday
April 25Giorno della LiberazioneLiberation
May 1Labor DayLabour Day
June 2Republic DayDay of the Republic
15 AugustAssunzione della Virgine MariaAssumption of Mary
November 1All SaintsAll Saints' Day
December 8Immaculate ConceptionImmaculate Conception
December 25ChristmasFirst Christmas Day
December 26Santo StefanoBoxing Day
December 31new Year's EveNew Year's Eve

Pentecost and Ascension

It will surprise everyone that Pentecost and Ascension are hardly or not at all celebrated in Italy. Almost unbelievable right? But look it up, in Italy these are normal days when everyone works and most Italians have no idea that there is a (Catholic) holiday in other countries.

However, there are other days that are free for everyone in Italy and that are not celebrated in the Netherlands and Belgium. Two of them are related to each other. The first, December 8, is the 'Immacolata Concezione'. that is, the Immaculate Conception of Mary.

The Catholic Church celebrates the dogma that Mary was conceived with an immaculate soul. And that is very important in a country where the Blessed Virgin stands on a large pedestal. Mary Immaculate Conception is often confused with that other aspect of Catholic teaching: that Jesus was born of a virgin.


Buon Ferragosto! (photo: Pixabay)

Another Italian holiday related to Mary is Ferragosto, August 15. The day on which Mary is taken up into heaven. In Belgium this is a day off, but not in the Netherlands.

Mary is, it turns out, very important in Italy. Anyone who knows Italy a little will have noticed that there are statues of Mary everywhere, of course always depicted with Jesus in her arms. The day on which Mary was born, September 8, is not officially celebrated, but it is an important day within the church.

Natale (Christmas)

In Italy, just like in the Netherlands and Belgium, Natale is a real family celebration. People always say 'Natale con i tuoi, Pasqua con chi vuoi(Christmas with your family, Easter with whoever you want).

Christmas starts with La Vigilia (Tue Natal), Christmas Eve. At midnight there is a mass that is attended by many, even people who normally do not go to church, do go on the Vigilia. First, however, there is good food, as any self-respecting Italian holiday revolves around food.

The old Catholic custom of eating meals only after midnight mass has almost disappeared in Italy too. However, there are still specific customs regarding the Christmas meal per region.

Christmas Day is simply Natale or Il giorno di Natale. To be born means 'to be born'. La citta natale means 'hometown'. So Christmas has a very clear meaning in Italian.

Boxing Day is called Santo Stefano. In Italy this day has been celebrated since 1947, before that Boxing Day was an ordinary working day. The idea behind it was to give the birth of Christ even more weight. In the same way Easter Monday came into being, which in Italian il lunedì di Pasqua is called (Easter Monday) or also 'Pasquetta'.

Read here the experiences of a Dutch woman during her first Christmas in Italy.

Capodanno (New Year's Day)

Auguri di Buon Anno! Congratulations on a new year!

Just like with us, January 1 is a public holiday, which is actually mainly celebrated on the day and night before. Italy wouldn't be Italy if old and new weren't also dominated by rituals. You will find more information about this in this blog article.


January 6 is Epiphany, a public holiday in Italy. It's called the Epiphany (meaning revelation) because the idea is that Jesus first revealed himself to the Three Kings as the son of God.

The party also resembles Sinterklaas, only instead of a wise old gentleman, a witch, who The witch hot. The idea is the same, good children get sweet and naughty soot. A stocking is hung and filled with sweets.

A big difference with Sinterklaas is that everyone is free in Italy on January 6. It is said: 'Epiphany takes away all holidays', The Three Kings take all holidays with them. In other words, after January 6, there will be no days off for a long time. The first holiday after Epifania is Easter (Easter).

All Saints and All Souls

Another Italian holiday related to religion is November 1, Ognissanti or also called Tutti i Santi. All Saints' Day. In Italy it is always mentioned in the same breath as 'tutti i morti' (literally: all the dead, but that could be more beautiful and is therefore called All souls day) on November 2.

Many go to the cemeteries on November 1 or 2 to place flowers on the graves of their loved ones. All Saints' Day (November 1) is a day off, All Souls' Day (November 2) is not.


Liberation Day Italy: Festa della Liberazione
Liberation Day Italy: Festa della Liberazione

On April 25, the Italian Liberation Day. Italy entered the Second World War on the side of Germany, but gradually repented.

Labour Day

Furthermore, in Italy, just like in Belgium, May 1 is celebrated, the Labour Day. In the big cities there are free concerts with of course some speeches in between.

Day of the Republic

La Festa della Repubblica: one of the most important Italian holidays (Photo: Wikimedia)

Then there is June 2, Republic Day. You can read more about it in this article.

All in all, there are significant differences in public holidays between Italy and the Netherlands, but minor differences in public holidays between Italy and Belgium. The school holidays are very different again, with a long summer holiday in Italy, but no autumn or spring break.

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