Let’s review some of the most cherished among Italian holidays, which are not known or practiced in the rest of the world.
- The Epiphany. The Epiphany is celebrated on the sixth of January and it originally symbolized the birth of Jesus. It is still celebrated as that in the Eastern Orthodox Church. However, when the Catholic Church decided to celebrate Christmas on the 25th of December instead, the meaning of the holiday changed, at least for Catholics. Greek for “miracle”, the word “epiphany” came to be known as a celebration of three important events that took place early in Jesus’ life: the visit to the a newly born Jesus of the Three Wise Kings, or Magi, his baptism by John the Baptist, and the first miracle he performed, at the wedding in Cana. In Italy, the Epiphany marks the end of the Christmas season.
- Liberation Day. Celebrated on the twety-fifth of April, it commemorates the liberation of Italy by Allied troops in the Second World War. After Italy surrendered, Nazi Germany considered it as a new enemy, and intensified the anti partisans operations against the Italian freedom fighters. The holiday is meant to honor all those who died during the war, from soldiers to civilian victims of Allied bombings and atrocities committed during Nazi Germany’s bitter retreat from its former ally’s territory.
- May Day. The first of May is celebrated in most of the world as Labor Day. In Italy, it is not just a workers’ holiday, but a day for left political parties to hit the streets and protest their cause. The atmosphere is usually festive, like one, friendly street fair. The climax of every First of May celebration is the free music concert of Piazza San Giovanni, in Rome, where the most important Italian singers and performers, as well as many foreign stars perform before a festive audience.
- Ferragosto. Along with Christmas, Easter, and New Year’s Eve, Ferragosto is probably the best loved holiday in Italy. Celebrated on the fifteenth of August, it honors Mary’s Assumption to Heaven, where Catholic belief says she sits beside her Son, Jesus. It is a day of great festivities with celebrations in the streets and prayers to the Virgin Mary. All of Italy shuts down to celebrate Ferragosto. During the years, just like Christmas, the religious connotation of the holiday has been overtaken by its mundane side. In most of Italy, especially in touristic areas and locations, Ferragosto is a sort of second New Year’s Eve, with parties and celebrations.
- Feast of St. Stephen. The Feast of St. Stephen is celebrated on the twenty-sixth of December, the day after Christmas. It is part of the Twelve Days of Christmas, and honors the first martyr for the Newborn King, Stephen.