Christmas Events in Rome and Things to Do 2023

What are the best Christmas Events in Rome?

From Christmas markets to concerts to tree lightings to Vatican events, find out what's happening in Rome at Christmas this year!

christmas lights on via dei condottiThere's a lot to see and do in Rome around Christmastime, like enjoying the beautiful lights around the Eternal city.

Christmas Events in Rome 2023

Christmas is a magical time of year to be in Rome. The city is beautifully lit up with decorations, lights, and even some Christmas trees, and there is a festive feeling in the air.

On this page you'll find updated Christmas Events in Rome for 2023 including:

Christmas markets in Rome

Without a doubt, one of the most popular Christmas events in Rome is the opening of the Piazza Navona Christmas market and fair.

christmas market in piazza navonaThe opening of the Christmas Fair in Piazza Navona is one of the most anticipated Christmas events in Rome each year.

While this has gone through a lot of changes in recent years, it's still where tourists and locals alike flock every year to enjoy the holiday feel.

When is the Christmas market in Piazza Navona going up in 2023? It has been confirmed as taking place from December 8 - January 6, find out all about the Piazza Navona Christmas Market in Rome, along with other Rome Christmas markets on my dedicated page.

Christmas decorations and lights around Rome

There are two types of Roman Christmas decorations to look for - the ones that private companies like shops, restaurants and hotels put up, and the ones that the city puts up.

When do Christmas decorations start going up in Rome?

Honestly there is no one answer to this. It seems to me that each year they go up at different times. 

Christmas lights along via del CorsoOne of my favorite Christmas street lights in Rome were these lights along via del Corso in 2013. They are different every year.

If you're coming to Rome in early - mid November, I would not count on seeing too many Christmas decorations but you will see a few because many shops, hotels, and restaurants start getting their act together, in part to attract customers.

You will really see Christmas decorations and lights in Rome in full force by early December.

Christmas trees and lighting events in Rome

Like Christmas Markets, Christmas trees are not really part of the Italian festive traditions.

Both of these are more common in northern European countries.

But typically we have two major Christmas trees in Rome - one at Piazza Venezia and one in St Peter's Square at the Vatican.

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Vatican Christmas tree lighting - 2023

In 1982 during the pontificate of Pope John Paul II, the first Christmas tree went up in Saint Peter's Square.

Pope John Paul II was Polish and perhaps he wanted to bring just a bit of his Christmas culture to the Vatican.

This new tradition was very popular, and every year since then, different European countries (or regions within Italy) vie for the honor of donating the tree to the Holy See.

Vatican Square Christmas tree and nativityAnother one of the most anticipated Christmas events in Rome is the lighting of the Christmas tree in Vatican Square.

Typically the tree gets lit sometime in early December and stays up sometime around the 6th of January or just after that date.

When will the Vatican Christmas display tree be lit in 2023?

In 2023, the tree will be lit on Saturday December 9 at 5:00pm.

Also for 2023, the Vatican will recreate the first living Nativity scene of St Francis on the 800th anniversary of its creation in Greccio north of Rome in 1223.

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Piazza Venezia Christmas Tree lighting - 2023

There usually is a tree in Piazza Venezia but due to construction this year, the tree will be in Piazza del Popolo. 

piazza venezia christmas treeAnother of the most popular Christmas events in Rome each year is the lighting of the Christmas tree in Piazza Venezia.

The tree will be lit on December 8th and stays up through the 6th of January or maybe a day or two after that.


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Nativity scenes around Rome

You pretty much cannot walk into a church in Rome during Christmastime and not see a nativity scene (presepe in Italian.)

nativity scene in pazza navonaNativity scenes like this abound in Rome at Christmas. You can see them in churches but also out in some piazzas. This was in Piazza Navona one year.

They vary in size and quality but often are beautiful and intricate.

The most popular nativity scenes around Rome are the ones at Piazza di Spagna (Spanish Steps), and at Vatican Square.

Some churches may also have a collection of nativity scenes in the form of a kind of museum exhibit.

In 2023 in St Peter's Square, the Vatican will recreate the first living Nativity scene of St Francis on the 800th anniversary of its creation in Greccio north of Rome in 1223. Starting on December 9th.

Christmas concerts in Rome

There are many opportunities for enjoying a Christmas concert in Rome.

The concerts put on by the Vatican are often either not open to the general public or are very difficult to get tickets for. But they are live-streamed.

And there are plenty of other concerts around Rome during the Christmas holidays as well.

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Vatican Christmas concerts in Rome

The below are official Vatican Christmas concerts.

On December 17, 2023, you can attend the Christmas concert inside the beautiful cathedral of San Giovanni in Laterano, Saint John in Lateran.

You can visit their website for photos and more details.

concerto di natale 2022

On December 16, 2023, you can attend the Christmas concert in Auditorium Conciliazione in Rome. - 

You can visit their website for photos and more details.

More Christmas concerts in Rome - 2023

Some of the below are Rome Christmas concerts normally held every year.

I will continue to monitor the situation and update this page when there is anything new to report.

For a unique and solemn experience, attend the Christmas Baroque Concert inside Rome's Capuchin Crypt.

December 21, 26, and 28, 2023. From 83€.

Optional dinner available.

Listen to a Christmas concert with a variety of holiday songs, from opera arias to classics like White Christmas and Jingle Bells.

Enjoy a light aperitivo of snacks and sparkling wine after the show, together with the artists.

December 22, 23, 26, 29 and 30, 2023. From 37€.

Check out the Rome Gospel Festival at the Rome Auditorium.

There will be a special Christmas Day concert by the Harlem Gospel Choir.

Tickets from $20.

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Christmas tours to take in Rome

These tours are available only during the Christmas season.

Some are available on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, and others are not available those days.

Click each link to see details and more tour options.

Enjoy the Holiday atmosphere in Rome with a local.

Visit all the best shopping areas and see Rome's streets lit up for the Christmas season. Take in the city's nativity scenes and spot a few Christmas trees. One drink included.

Wheelchair accessible.


Learn all about the Christmas traditions in Rome on this Nativities and Angels tour, taking you on a walking tour across the historic center of Rome.

Starting in Piazza del Popolo and ending in St Peter's Square this a great way to see Rome's decorations!

Important Dates on the Christmas Calendar and Things to Do

The below are the most important dates in the Christmas Calendar in Rome.

December 8 - Immacolata/Immaculate conception

December 8, the Immaculate Conception, or Immacolata, is the official beginning of the Christmas season in Italy.

There are two major Christmas events in Rome on this day, both involving the Pope:

Angelus with Pope Francis in Saint Peter's Square

Throughout the year, you can attend the Angelus in Saint Peter's Square on Sundays when the pope is in town.

On December 8, you can also attend the Angelus at noon in Vatican Square.

The changing of the wreath of the virgin Mary

In Piazza Mignanelli, next to the piazza at the bottom of the Spanish Steps, you can spot this column with the Virgin Mary at the top.

All year long, she holds a wreath.

mary in piazza mignanelliThe changing of Mary's wreath in Piazza Mignanelli has become one of the most popular Christmas events in Rome in recent years.

Every December 8 at 4:30pm, Pope Francis comes to change the wreath that Mary is holding.

In reality, this is done by firemen, but the pope is (usually) in attendance.

This has become very popular in recent years and due to security, you will need to get there quite early to get close enough.

mary holding a new wreath on December 8From December 8, you can see Mary's beautiful new wreath with fresh flowers.

December 24 - La Vigilia di Natale/Christmas Eve

Christmas Eve is one of the most important dates on the Christmas calendar for Italians.

Most Italians I know (or at least Alessandro and his family) care more about the fish-based dinner on Christmas Eve than the lunch on Christmas Day.

We make a big seafood dinner, followed by panettone and pandoro, and we open gifts at midnight (not on Christmas morning).

Wondering where to eat dinner on Christmas? Visit my dedicated page here.

The Feast of the 7 Fishes

The Feast of the 7 Fishes is delicious and a lot of fun, but it's not Roman or Italian.

It's an Italian American tradition so you won't find it celebrated anywhere in Rome.

Many churches around Rome, including the Pantheon, offer Midnight Mass.

If you plan to attend midnight mass at the Pantheon, you will need to come early as space is always limited.

pantheon at night in romeOne of the loveliest Christmas events in Rome is midnight mass. You can attend this service inside the Pantheon, but come early to get a spot!

Christmas events in Rome - midnight mass in Saint Peter's Basilica

If you want to attend Midnight Mass at the Vatican on Christmas Eve, first you should know it's not actually at midnight but at 9 or 10pm.

Visit my page here to find out how to request tickets to attend mass inside Saint Peter's Basilica.

December 25 - Natale/Christmas Day

Well, on a page about Christmas Events in Rome, the big day is obviously Christmas Day, Natale.

Just about everything is closed in Rome this day but there are exceptions.

NEW FOR CHRISTMAS DAY 2023 - The Colosseum will be open from 9 am to 1 pm.

Vatican Christmas events in Rome

On December 25, you can attend the Urbi et Orbi at 12 noon in St. Peter’s Square.

The event is free and open to everyone.

Music/theater Christmas events in Rome on Christmas Day 2023

There are two shows of the Harlem Gospel Choir at the Rome Auditorium, at 5:30 PM and at 9:00 PM. 

harlem gospel choirDon't miss the Harlem Gospel Choir on Christmas Day!

The show is available on several dates but it's also nice to know you can enjoy this on Christmas Day itself.

Other things you can do on Christmas Day in Rome include:

  • Walk around and enjoy the quiet city center
  • Visit the Christmas Market in Piazza Navona - confirmed for 2022
  • Visit the Christmas Market in Piazza del Popolo
  • Visit churches and nativity scenes
  • Enjoy a big Christmas lunch

December 26 - Saint Steven/Santo Stefano

Saint Steven's Day is dedicated to the first Christian Martyr.

While in Many Anglo-Saxon countries, this is a day to shop post-Christmas, in Italy it is considered an extension of the Christmas holiday season. 

Shops and the Vatican Museums remain closed.

Even when shops do reopen on December 27, you will not find after-Christmas sales as you'd find in the USA or other countries. 

Winter sales in Italy begin the first Saturday after New Year's Day.

However, just about every other site and museum is open on this day, so it's a great time do some sight-seeing in Rome.

There aren't any specific Christmas events in Rome on this day after Christmas, but you can enjoy the markets, lights, and decorations as well as the Christmas Markets and other Rome attractions.

January 6 - The Epiphany/La Befana

January 6 is the Epiphany, also known as the Day of the Kings.

In Italy we celebrate it but it also has another name, La Befana.

On this last day of Christmas events in Rome, you can attend the Viva La Befana procession on the Via della Conciliazione leading to the Vatican.

viva la befana on january 6The Viva la Befana procession on January 6 commemorates the Epiphany.

While the Epiphany does celebrate the arrival of the Magi to visit the Christ child, the Befana story combines a bit more local folklore.

The tradition of the Befana in Italy is actually very old, and there are several versions of the story.

Basically the Befana is portrayed as an old hag or witch, who was sweeping her house when the Magi stopped by. Perhaps she gave them food and shelter. Or maybe they just needed to rest. Either way, they were impressed by her tidy house and asked her to join them in bringing their gifts to the baby Jesus.

She declined but once they were gone, she changed her mind. She looked everywhere but couldn't find the baby Jesus, so she gave the toys she had brought with her to other children.

The tradition in Italy is for children to receive small gifts and toys on the Befana.

befana witches for saleThe Befana is the official end of the Christmas season in Italy. Little witch figures are often given to children along with small gifts on this day, January 6.

The Befana is the last of the Christmas Events in Rome. Things to do include:

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