Christmas season begins in Italy on the 30th of November! In the cold winter weather of the northern Tuscan mountains where you can rent a villa in Tuscany Christmas fairs feature fireworks, bonfires, hot chocolate, sugary pastries and piping bowls of pasta. Near Lucca villa rental Christmas markets overflow with new figurines for the manger scene and Christmas baubles to decorate the Christmas tree. If you would like to savour the Christmas spirit earlier than most; we suggest you visit La Collina del Sole one of the few Villas for rent in Tuscany which is designed for both winter and summer living. With a welcoming living room complete with open log fire, high beamed ceilings typical of the best Holiday villas in Lucca and a plethora of speciality food shops bursting with truffles and funghi porcini and fabulously well priced restaurants that serve the best local fare all of them found near our villa rentals in Tuscany Nine days before Christmas it is traditional for Italian families to sing Christmas carols and re-create the manger scene in their homes (some families put life-size figures of Mary and Joseph in their front yard) where they will gather to pray every morning and light candles. Interestingly both the concept of manger scenes and Christmas carols originated in Italy! During the run up to Christmas, children will write letters to their parents wishing them a merry Christmas, promising good behaviour, and making a list of the gifts they hope to receive – much like we do in England. However, in Italy the parents read these letters aloud at dinner. Then they toss them in the fireplace! The children chant to La Befana, the Christmas Spirit, [who when she turns up looks like an old lady] as their wishes go up the chimney – this certainly makes it a little bit trickier for Santa or the Befana when remembering what the children asked for! Once the first star appears on Christmas Eve Italian families light candles in their windows to light the way for the Christ Child. They light candles around their manger and pass the figure of the Baby Jesus from person to person, kissing it, before finally placing it tenderly in its crib. Then they enjoy a lavish supper based on seafood, vegetables, salads, antipasto, bread, pasta, and sweets – no meat will feature in this meal. After dinner the town will gather at church for a midnight Christmas Eve mass. Christmas Day is reserved for church, presents, family, and – in true Italian style – feasting! Foods which feature heavily at Christmas are Pannettone, a yeast cake filled with fruit, and panforte, a dense honey cake spiced with cloves and cinnamon, and cassata, which includes ice cream and fruit. So in the words of a young man “Maybe Christmas, he thought, doesn't come from a store. Maybe Christmas . . . perhaps . . . means a little bit more!”..