The Sacile Christmas market is everything you want in a small-town Italian market!
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2022 update: Sacile hasn’t announced firm dates for their Christmas markets, but typically they run from the welcoming of Saint Nicolas on December 5 through the 12th day of Christmas, January 6! So far, they’ve announced no requirements for COVID vaccinations or masks. Make sure to confirm this on their official website before you go.
Italy doesn’t have quite the cultural tradition of Christmas markets the way Germany does, but they do have a few!
My small town has a darling little one each year, and I wander through it almost daily during the holidays!
Exploring the Sacile Christmas Market
Unlike bigger markets, the Sacile Christmas market is small with more bars. While there are some artisan booths, most of the stalls are sell small plates of local delicacies and antipasti. There’s plenty of gluhwein, although in northern Italy we call it vin brulée. But it’s also common to get spritzes, beer and wine at the market as well!
Many are run by local restaurants and businesses, so it’s a fun way to try new places you haven’t checked out yet.
Like many small-town markets, it’s open most evenings and all weekend.
Also unlike German markets, there’s plenty of seating! Some of the stalls set up picnic tables. There are also little bonfires with bench seats, perfect for a Friday night hanging out with friends.
Another difference between typical markets and our small town market is it doesn’t close down as early! Good Italian cultural standards mean dinner isn’t until 8, so there’s no way the markets close early.
Italian Christmas traditions
Italians have some of my favorite holiday celebrations, and in Sacile they all end back up at the market!
One annual tradition is the arrival of San Nicolo (Saint Nicholas). He leaves treats for children on the 6th, so the night before every year he arrives at the market! He rides a cart pulled by a donkey down my street, accompanied by bells (and sometimes bagpipes in my town!). As he goes, families follow him to the piazza where he gives out candies to families. In some ways, it’s the start of the Christmas season.
Another great (dark) Christmas tradition is the Krampus. Krampus is sort of the anti-Santa: if kids are bad, the Krampus comes and either beats them or kidnaps them. It originates in Germany/Austria/northern Italy. Around here, there’s a traveling band of performers that come to do a Krampus night in local towns. They wear crazy demon masks and a crazy pyrotechnics show. It’s so weird and so much fun.
In Italy, the Christmas season doesn’t end on Christmas day! Italy continues the holidays until January 6th, when the Bella Befana comes. The Bella Befana is a good witch who gives candy and small gifts to kids. Are you sensing a theme?
The night before the Bella Befana comes is a celebration we call Pan e Vin (literally, bread and wine). It’s tradition in northeastern Italy. At night, there’s a massive bonfire where the whole community comes together. There’s a special bread, pinza, and wine or hot tea, and a truly massive bonfire.
The weird part? They top it with a witch! Weirder still, it’s not supposed to have anything to do with the bella befana coming the next morning. Italians have no concept of why I think that’s weird that we have these two witches within 12 hours of each other.
This is a bad witch, representing the previous year. They burn it to close the book on the old year and make room for good luck in the new!
I love our local Sacile Christmas market!
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