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Home » Italian Christmas Traditions in Matera

Matera, the European Capital of Culture 2019 and the City of Christmas 2018, has been representing Basilicata in the world for a few years now. Basilicata remained unknown to many for a long time. In fact, a local director, Rocco Papaleo, in his film Basilicata Coast to Coast says: “Basilicata does exist! It is almost like the concept of God, you either believe it or you don’t.”

Thanks to the increasing importance of Matera, Basilicata has been saved from oblivion. Even if the increase of tourism in Basilicata is mostly in Matera, it is still positive for the entire region.


Before being designated as the European Capital of Culture 2019, Matera, or the Citta’ dei Sassi (city of rocks) had already widened its popularity thanks to Mel Gibson, who chose it for  the filming of The Passion in 2004. When you see the sun reflecting on the rocks, it’s easy to understand why he chose it. It looks like a version of Jerusalem as the rays turn the stones golden. So, how about spending Christmastime in Mel Gibson’s Palestine?

It will be easy to feel that magical Christmas atmosphere while you stand in front of the stunning image of the lit Sassi at night. It seems like a manger, quiet and silent, waiting for the coming of the Lord.

living-manger-nativity-matera-christmasAgainst that wonderful backdrop, every year a “Living Nativity” is set up with hundreds of actors. This year, they will reproduce six scenes: the Annunciation, the Sanhedrin, the Market, the Historic Crafts, the Court of King Herod and the Birth of Christ. The upcoming dates to visit the Living Nativity are December 7, 8, 9, 15, 16, 22, 23, 28, 29, 30 and January 4, 5, 6. The walk is 1 km long, from the old town to the Sasso Barisano, and lasts 1 hour. A unique and evocative experience, it will surely take you back in time.

Besides evoking the solemnity of Christmas, Matera will host many other events. For Christmastime, Matera fills up with lights and magic. Do not miss the events organised for the project Il Quartiere Ri-Luce, whose aim is to redevelop the San Pardo neighbourhood- especially the Christmas lighting and the pettolata (pettola is a kind of finger food very common in Southern Italy…delicious!) on December 22nd.

Anyone who loves enjoying local food and flavors will love the Christmas market that will be set up in Piazzetta Pascoli, which also boasts a stunning view of the Sassi.


Matera will be the first to open its Christmas market in Europe this year from November 22nd through the 25th. If Mother Nature doesn’t cooperate, not to worry- it will be covered with a blanket of artificial snow!

Castle-tramontano-matera-christmas-2018And just a few meters from the historic center, stands the marvelous Tramontano Castle which will be illuminated with video projections, fantastic lights and full of Christmas aromas and flavors such as pettole, mulled wine, roasted chestnuts, wine, chocolate and many other delicacies. Right in front of the Castle, Santa Claus will be waiting for all the children to bring him their letters. 

There will also be street artists and performers who will make the Christmas atmosphere even more lively and exciting.

Matera-christmas-santa-clausFinally, what Christmas Village would be complete without an ice rink where both children and adults can enjoy themselves? There’s truly something for everyone! Are you ready to enjoy the magic?



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Article written by: M. T. Belsanti