New Year’s Eve in Rome and the pagan rituals of transition

Christmas traditions RomeWhy Christmas probably originated in Italy? The christianization of Saturnalia and other pagan festivals in the third and fourth centuries is the most probable answer. What happened? The church in Rome was in competition with the spread, popular pagan mystery cults involving sun worship and the winter solstice.

So Emperor Aurelian stated that December 25, that is the solstice on the Julian calendar, should have been “natalis solis invicti” (that is “birth of the invincible sun”), a festival which honoured the Sun god, Mithras.This is the reason why the Nativity feast is put on the same date, meaning to fight against this cult directly. Jesus was described ad the “Sun of Righteousness” and in this way replaced Mithras cult.

Over the centuries, the Christmas holiday strenghten in importance and  was  celebrated with many and varied events, putting together the Christmas tree and the Nativity cribs.

In modern Italy, the celebration of Christmas has its own unique dishes and recipes that accompany both Nativity Day’s Eve and New Year’s Eve.

And in Rome? The traditional New Year’s Eve are in Piazza del Popolo, where a huge crowd gather and celebrate with music, dancing and fireworks. On New Year’s day the party is on for the children, which  are entertained in the squares by performers, actors and acrobats.

Where to go in Rome to taste the crazy parties? Another place to let yourself free and celebrate will be  for sure near the Colosseum. In Via dei Fori Imperiali there’s a plenty of people and live music, usually starting around 10pm . Of course you can admire also fab midnight fireworks. If you feel more traditional, you can go next to the church of Santa Maria del Popolo, and see the exhibit of traditional nativity scenes coming from 100 regions of Italy plus other countries.

Rome helds also a classical music concert outdoors on the square in front of the Quirinale (Via Nazionale), around 11pm.

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