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‘Tis the season, but In Naples, it’s Christmas year round. The bond between the tradition of the Nativity scene and the city of Naples is so exclusive that the term “Neapolitan Nativity” now indicates a thing in itself. Neapolitan crèche nativity scenes locally called presepi feature mostly classic figures, the Holy Family, the magi, shepherds and 19th century villagers engaged in daily life, but also the often caricature representation of famous people from the past and the present. It’s therefore easy to find a unique combination of sacred and mundane in the figures that populate the Neapolitan Presepi.
The street of the presepi in Naples is Via San Gregorio Armeno, “o ‘vico de’ pasture”, i.e., the street of the shepherds. This is not a mere road that cuts through the historical center, but rather an experience that for 365 days keeps the atmosphere, the calm and magic of Christmas alive in the city of Naples. Shops and small artisan botteghe specialized in the art of the nativity scene, sell everything from classical statuettes to accessories to create classical nativity scene, to caricatures of famous people, comedian Totò and football star Maradona are always snuck in the 3D recreation of the Holy Night.
Being portrayed as a characters of the Neapolitan nativity scene is actually a goal for entertainment, politics and sports celebrities, who this way get their popularity validation. Another classic Naples presepe figure is pastore della meraviglia, a statue of a shepherd in awe before the sight of the newborn child.
A must in Naples is visiting the nativity scene held at the Church of S. Lorenzo Maggiore, where half walnut shells hold reconstructed minuscule diorama nativity scenes. All through December and leading up to the end of the advent calendar, live nativity scenes are also organized, especially in Piazza S. Gaetano. This is where people of all ages star in a live nativity scene, singing religious nativity hymns dressed in complete garb, often with animals and babies in mangers!
In terms of temporary Christmas Markets, Naples and neighboring provinces host many festive events. here is an updated list for 2018.
2018 Christmas Markets in Naples
December 1 – December 8
Complesso sportivo Centro Ester – Via Giambattista Vela. Daily from 3pm to 10pm gazebos and stands sell all manner of festive foods and spread holiday cheer.
December 6 – January 6
Mercatino di Natale Pozzuoli – Lungomare Pertini. Daily from 10am to midnight, there’s live music and street food stands. The block party every Saturday afternoon adds entertainment for kids. Every Sunday morning the seaside market organizes sports events, ice skating and dance numbers. There’s a stand-up comedy show in the days before Christmas, cocktails with DJs on Christmas Eve and a final closing party on January 6, plus much more.
December 1 – December 23
Mercatino di Natale del Sun Park – Via Mamolito,1, Quarto (NA). Daily from 10am to 1pm, and from 4pm to 10 pm, the Christmas Market in the Quarto theme park is open every day, with special events for children with games, workshops and so on. Children can post their letters to Santa Claus here. Every day they can meet Santa and actively participate in the creation of typical Christmas decorations. The village consists of Santa’s house and common areas in each little house, a space for photos and an area used as a laboratory, around the house there are kiosks selling products and holiday foods. The Christmas atmosphere is unique and evocative for both adults and children. Visitors can choose to buy package deals on entry tickets for all the rides in the Sun Park. Be sure to visit the Castle!
December 8 – January 6
Mercatino di Natale a Pompei – Piazza Bartolo Longo, Pompei. Daily from 10 am to 10 pm, in a unique cultural and historical context––Pompeii is UNESCO World Heritage Site––the ancient dig and the modern city welcome visitors, craftsmen and sellers in a unique setting. The central square of the city will come alive with festive cheer and delicious holiday sweets.
Devember 1 – December 16
Mercatino di Natale di Ottaviano – Palazzo Mediceo, Salita del Principe, Ottaviano. Daily from 10:30am to 11pm, and form 6pm to 11pm on Sundays, nature, culture, art, religion crafts and tradition revive the area’s territorial identity in what was the “Universitas Octajani” a gorgeous castle. Awarded as the “Best Christmas Market” in Italy, the event hosted over 60,000 presences last year.
December 2 – December 21
Mercatino di Natale di Camposano – Piazza Umberto, Camposano (NA). Every night, twinkling Christmas lights lace the event held in Camposano. There’s street food, crafts, entertainment for children of all ages, games, bouncy inflatables for children, a little train that rides around the village, and even pet therapy with a donkey! In addition to this, Christmas carols, laccio d’amore (maypole), zumba lessons, and much more. At night, local artists perform on stage, including Gregorio Rega, contender at Italy’s “The Voice” and Gerardo Amarante with the group Scacciapensieri and many others.
December 1 – December 26
Valle del Natale – Parco Valle dell’Orso, Via Giovanni XXIII, 54 Torre del Greco (NA). Valle dell’Orso once again transforms into Valle del Natale, the valley of Christmas, an exciting holiday extravaganza. The thrill is real: everything in the village is alive, complete with elves, Santa’s sleigh, gifts, snowmen, Natalina’s cookies, the floating North Pole, Santa himself… The craft markets, are furthermore magical, selling natural wood objects, small handicrafts and traditional Christmas food.
Mercatino di Calvi Risorta – Via Garibaldi & Via Napoli, Visciano (NA). From 3pm to 9pm, the characteristic narrow alleys of the historic center close to the ancient Church of San Silvestro Papa will host a unique Christmas market. The tammorre tarantella drums and guitars of good folk music will usher the opening of a theatre show, waders and fire eaters and a puppet show. There will also be a space dedicated to children reading classic fairy tales. The market, in its eighth edition, endures over time, based exclusively on solidarity, the enhancement of traditions and respect for territory. Shows and events are free including entry, with the sole purpose of promoting a different Christmas, made of values and ideals, in a festive atmosphere. In fact, there will not only be exhibitors, street artists, music, puppet theater but also discourse and a workshop on the art of reuse, as well as tasting of typical local products. All in a suggestive setting within the 18th century doors of the district of Visciano in Calvi Risorta, kindly made available by the local residents for the event.
Eleonora Baldwin is a TV host, freelance food and travel writer, and culinary connoisseur based in Rome, Italy. Her writing appears in several food and travel publications. Her shows “ABCheese” and “Uazz’america” are broadcast on Italian food network Gambero Rosso Channel. Her podcast “iCheese” is recorded live on the Radio Food Live network.