Buon Natale! Christmas in Italy

Italian Christmas Vocabulary and Music Traditions

Christmas tree in front of Coliseum
Richard I'Anson/Lonely Planet Images/Getty Images

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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Filippo, Michael San. "Buon Natale! Christmas in Italy." ThoughtCo, Sep. 30, 2016, thoughtco.com/italian-christmas-vocabulary-and-music-traditions-4097612. Filippo, Michael San. (2016, September 30). Buon Natale! Christmas in Italy. Retrieved from https://www.thoughtco.com/italian-christmas-vocabulary-and-music-traditions-4097612 Filippo, Michael San. "Buon Natale! Christmas in Italy." ThoughtCo. https://www.thoughtco.com/italian-christmas-vocabulary-and-music-traditions-4097612 (accessed December 14, 2017).