Italian Word of the Day: Vigilia (eve)

Today’s word of the day is part of our Italian Christmas Word Advent Calendar series. Each day throughout December, we’ll post a word that is related to the holiday season. Enjoy!

The word for eve in Italian is vigilia (feminine, plural vigilie) and Christmas Eve is known as la vigilia di Natale.

IPA: /vi·gì·lia/

Alla vigilia di Natale, gli abitanti del villaggio si recano in chiesa.

At Christmas Eve, the inhabitants of the village go to church.

Interestingly the Italians also have a specific term for the day before Christmas Eve. It is known as the antivigilia (with anti meaning before).

On Christmas Eve, practising Catholics (Cattolici) will either fast during the day or avoid eating meat to purify their bodies. Many also attend midnight Mass (la Messa di mezzanotte) after the family dinner to celebrate with their congregation.

If you’ve prepared a presepe (nativity scene) at home, this is also the right time to place Baby Jesus (Gesù Bambino) in the manger.

La Vigilia is also a very exciting time for Italian children (and children all over the world) as this is the night Babbo Natale (Santa Claus) delivers his presents!

lots of presents under the christmas tree

Vigilia is not just valid for Christmas or religious festivities, but it can also be used to call the day or period before an event:

  • La vigilia degli esami = the day before the exams
  • La vigilia delle vacanze = the day before the holidays

Sono sempre nervoso alla vigilia degli esami.

I’m always nervous before the exams.

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