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Rome for Christmas is a classic journey that can come together nicely for a group of any size with good planning. Rome and specifically the Vatican is a very important place to celebrate the Holidays. For Catholics this is one of the most important centers of their faith and many beautiful activities are celebrated there on Christmas Eve and Christmas day.
Italy puts a special emphasis on the Holidays. Many traditions have been kept alive surrounding them for generations. Food -one of the most important traditions- is really delicious with many dishes only showing up at this time of the year. Christmas markets bring a magical atmosphere to the town, streets and houses are decorated with lights and colorful ornaments.
Midnight Mass is celebrated at Saint Peters Basilica. That is a must for Christians and non Christians alike. This celebration is normally presided over by the Pope and the choirs accompanying the celebration are just fantastic. It is good to keep in mind that one should have special tickets for that celebration. Those tickets can be obtained for Americans and other English speaking travelers in the office for American Pilgrims in what is called the North American College in Rome. Travelers from other countries can contact the local offices of the Catholic church in their cities or the Nunciatura (this is the Embassy of the Holy see in each country) It is advisable to contact ahead of traveling and try to get these tickets with time to spare since thousands of people want to participate of these celebrations, but normally it should not be a problem to get the tickets. Mass is celebrated around midnight, but one has to arrive to Saint Peter’s Square at least two or three hours beforehand to pass the security check point.
There are other activities happening as well in the Vatican for Christmas day and New Years Eve and New Years day. There are many other happenings organized around the city including wonderful concerts. One of the focal points of interest is Piazza Navona where from December 8th a Christmas market is underway. This is a perfect place to buy candies, souvenirs and great local Christmas decorations.
December can be a little cold in Rome, and it is not a really high season for tourism, with the exception of the last week of December, but for that reason it is normally possible to get airplane tickets and hotel packages at a fair price, far cheaper than in summer.
For new Year’s eve a great multitude meets at Piazza Spagna. There is music and a festive ambiance to ring in the New Year.
I think it is a great idea to spend the Holidays in Rome, the weather is not as bad as in the rest of Europe. It can be a little chilly, but nothing like in other countries or cities around. People are in a great mood, everything is cheaper and the big crowds of tourists are away. So maybe it is time to start planning a great Christmas season in Italy.