Nestled in the heart of Italy, the region of Le Marche paints a picturesque scene during the festive season, adorned with timeless traditions that weave together community, family, and cherished customs.
If you move to our region, be it full time or to own a vacation home, here are some of the key dates that your new community will almost certainly involve you in.
Christmas Eve - La Vigilia
Presepe Vivente: In many towns across Le Marche, families partake in or visit the “Presepe Vivente,” the living Nativity scenes. These intricate reenactments of the Nativity story draw families together to witness the birth of Jesus, often fostering a sense of community and spiritual reflection. We stroll around our local presepe (we were actually in it a few years ago, playing two fishermen!), and buy a panino and cup of vino cotto to keep us warm.
Elsewhere, Christmas markets are in abundance, where rows of wooden huts selling artisanal crafts as well as huge ice rinks adorn the ancient piazzas of Le Marche’s historic towns.
Feast of the Seven Fishes: Like much of Italy, Le Marche embraces the Feast of the Seven Fishes on Christmas Eve. Families gather for a lavish dinner featuring an array of seafood dishes, from brodetto (fish stew) to fried calamari, celebrating the significance of the night before Christmas.
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Christmas Day - Natale
Family Bonding: Christmas morning in Le Marche is about togetherness. Some families gather around the Christmas tree to exchange gifts and enjoy a leisurely breakfast, often consisting of traditional sweets like panettone or homemade pastries, before attending Christmas Day Mass.
Lunch Celebrations: The Christmas lunch in Le Marche is a grand affair, showcasing regional specialties like vincisgrassi (a rich lasagna-like dish) and ciauscolo (soft salami). Families linger around the table, sharing stories, laughter, and the warmth of the season. We usually visit friends for a lengthy Christmas lunch that consists of four or five courses, before spending the evening at a gathering in another friend’s home, for snacks, drinks and a game of tombola.
Santo Stefano - St. Stephen's Day
Extended Celebrations: Santo Stefano is often seen as an extension of Christmas in Le Marche. Families may continue their celebrations, visiting relatives or participating in local events and festivals, keeping the festive spirit alive.
New Year's Eve - La Notte di San Silvestro
Dinner and Traditions: New Year’s Eve dinners in Le Marche are filled with dishes believed to bring luck for the coming year. Families gather to enjoy lentils, symbolising prosperity, and cotechino or zampone (sausages) symbolising abundance, while toasting with local wines.
Midnight Celebrations: At midnight, fireworks light up the sky, and families greet the new year with joyous cheers, exchanging wishes of “Buon Anno!” There are also classical concerts in theatres across the region on New Year’s Eve, and most restaurants are full with groups of friends and relatives who enjoy a large dinner before watching the local fireworks displays.
New Year's Day - Capodanno
Relaxing and Reflecting: New Year’s Day in Le Marche often involves a relaxed pace. Families might take leisurely walks, visit local attractions, or enjoy a traditional meal of zampone or cotechino with lentils, continuing the symbolism of prosperity and abundance.
Community Events: Some communities in Le Marche organise events, concerts, or cultural activities on New Year’s Day, providing opportunities for families and friends to come together and celebrate the start of the new year.
In Le Marche, Epiphany, known as “La Befana,” is celebrated with a mix of traditional and religious customs. La Befana is a folklore figure, and depending on where you live she might be portrayed as a kind old woman, while in other regions she is depicted as a witch who rides a broomstick. La Befana delivers gifts to children on the night of January 5th, leaving presents in stockings or shoes.
On the eve of Epiphany, children often hang stockings or put out shoes, hoping that La Befana will visit them and leave gifts or sweets if they’ve been good throughout the year. Families may also gather together for a special dinner to mark the occasion.
During Epiphany, some towns in Le Marche host parades or processions featuring individuals dressed as La Befana, often distributing sweets and small gifts to children. These events can include music, performances, and celebrations in the town squares or streets.
Moreover, it’s a day for families to come together, sharing traditional foods like panettone, pandoro, and other festive treats. The focus is on spending time with loved ones and celebrating the end of the Christmas season.
In Le Marche, the holiday season is a time for strengthening family bonds, embracing traditions passed down through generations, and rejoicing in the warmth of community. The celebrations centered around faith, food, and togetherness exemplify the essence of Le Marche’s rich cultural heritage during this magical time of year.