Home » Winter Solstice Traditions in Italy

The winter solstice is deeply rooted in ancient traditions and rituals dating back as early as Neolithic times. The shortest day of the year marked the rebirth of the sun and was very important in agricultural societies. In many parts of Italy, this time period is still highly symbolic and ritualized.

What is the Winter Solstice?

Solstizio (solstice) derives from Latin, sol stat, or the “sun stops”. Each passing day after the winter solstice represents the sun “gaining strength” as the days progressively get longer. In some parts of Italy, the solstice is considered more of a New Year’s Eve than December 31st because it symbolizes rebirth.

Solstice Traditions in Italy

Two of the regions that continue to practice the ancient rituals associated with the solstice are Abruzzo and Molise. Probably, the most famous celebration is held in Atri in the Teramo province of Abruzzo. Over the centuries, the customs have been Christianized but many of the rituals are clearly pagan and could even date to pre-Roman times.


Atri’s celebration begins at sunset on December 7th and lasts until sunrise on December 8th (which coincides with the Catholic church’s Feast of the Immaculate Conception). It is known as the Night of the FaugniFaugni are gigantic bundles of reeds tied together and then lit to create a massive bonfire. They are then carried through the streets of the village accompanied by a band and thousands of villagers and visitors. It is believed that faugni comes from the word Faun which was the pagan god of shepherds and crops that was revered in this agricultural area.

Very similar to this is the Faglia ritual in the little village of Oratino in the Campobasso province of Molise. Oratino’s involves a humongous torch made of reeds that can weigh up to 30 quintals and be as long as 13 meters. It’s carried by the young men of the village, up to 50 of them, and transported to its final destination in the piazza where it is lit before the crowd. In Oratino, the ceremony is held on December 24th but it definitely predates Christmas Eve celebrations in modern Christianity.

The 2022 Winter Solstice

solstizio inverno

You can watch the winter solstice sunrise LIVE from Stonehenge in the UK on the morning of December 22 by clicking on this link

Happy winter!