The Feast of the Immaculate Conception on 8th December was instituted by Pope Sixtus IV in the 15th century. It is a religious and public holiday throughout Italy.
Christmas is a time for families in Italy. For many the festivities start on Christmas Eve - La Vigilia -, and many shops and businesses close in the afternoon on the 24th. A Midnight Mass is held in every church on Christmas Eve, usually well attended as people celebrate the beginning of the Christmas period.
Christmas day centres around a big family lunch, after which people may venture out for an afternoon stroll, or play games at home.