Italians really feel the holiday season beginning with December 8th, the Day of Immaculate Conception. On this day many Italian families decorate their home and trees, bake cookies, and the holiday shopping begins. From this day on, up to December 26th, the holiday atmosphere gets bigger and bigger: in many Italian streets decorations and huge Christmas trees are displayed, presepi (Nativity scenes) are placed outside for all to see.
It is very nice to stroll down the streets for some window-shopping, or simply admire the lights and watch people getting ready for the holiday season.
The celebrations start on the 24th with the Christmas Eve celebrations, Christmas Day, and Santo Stefano or Boxing Day, as it is called on some countries.
On the 31st at midnight there are fireworks in most towns. The holidays are not over on January first however.
The Feast of the Epiphany, an important post-Christmas date on the Christian calendar, is celebrated on January 6th as a national holiday in Italy. The tradition of La Befana, who arrives on the Epiphany, plays a big part in Italian Christmas celebrations.