The Christmas season in Italy starts early, with Advent, a 4 week religious time of prayer and ends on January 6th. Eight days before Christmas a Novena is started. That is a series of prayers said over a 9 day period (Santa gets a break in Italy). Children get their gifts on January 6th, from La Befana, the good witch. The story goes that when they were searching for the Christ Child, the Wise Men asked an old woman for directions and asked that she come along with them and she refused and to this day she roams the world looking for the Christ Child herself and must give out the gifts on the anniversary of the day the wise men finally arrived, in the hope that the Christ Child will be in one of the homes and get the gifts she should have brought centuries ago...Of course in the United States, celebrating Italian Christmas traditions can mean getting gifts on both December 25th and January 6th.
It's always a good idea to keep the old traditions going. There is one Italian Christmas traditions that we have adopted and made our own and that is the Creche. It started when St. Francis of Assisi had one built for his parishioners. It was so beautiful that soon everyone wanted one for themselves. Some of these are literally works of art, worthy of being in a museum.
On Christmas day, the first order of business is going to Church. The meal of the day consists of some kind of meat or chicken instead of fish.
There is one tradition that did not make it to the United States. In the rural areas, shepherds stroll the streets playing bagpipes and collecting money to buy presents. Children also dress as shepherds and go from house to house play shepherds pipes and asking for money also.