Curious about Italian baby traditions? Italians have traditions for everything – from baptisms to wedding days to holidays. There are special traditions for each major life event, including the birth of a bambino (baby boy) or bambina (baby girl).
As an expat in Italy, when I found out I was pregnant with my first child, I was excited to celebrate the baby traditions I’d grown up with, including having a baby shower and choosing a unique name for our little one.
I soon found out that the Italian baby traditions are different than what I’d grown up with. So, I began quizzing friends and my Italian family about the baby traditions in Italy.
While I didn’t follow all of them, I did pick up a couple of new ones!
Read on for 8 Italian Baby Traditions that are celebrated by mamme and papà all over Italy.
Choosing Only Italian Names
Most Italians (especially older generations) turn their noses up at choosing a non-Italian name for a new baby. Robert for a boy? Mamma mia, no! Roberto is fine though.
You also won’t find non-traditional spellings of names. For example, Giulia is never spelled “Julia” or “Jewellia” or any other creative variation like “Giulienna.”
At first, I found this to be quite boring and I wanted my kids to have unique names. Now I see the beauty in having a traditional name. (And so do the parents of the other three kids in my son’s class with the same name).
Choosing Names Of Relatives
The Italian naming tradition:
- The first son is named after the paternal grandfather.
- The first daughter is named after the paternal grandmother.
- The second son is named after the maternal grandfather.
- The second daughter is named after the maternal grandmother.
So, if Matteo and Ginevra have a son, he will be named after Matteo’s grandfather. If they have a second son, he will be named after Ginevra’s grandfather.
If they have a third son, they may choose to name him after another family member (such as a favorite uncle), a saint, or the godfather.
While this tradition seems to be fading out, it is still occasionally followed.
Choosing Names Of Saints
Some Italians choose the name of the saint celebrated on the day the child is born. So, if your baby girl is born on August 11th (the day of Santa Chiara), you may choose to name your baby Chiara.
Of course, you can choose to name your little girl Chiara even if she’s not born on August 11th!
Birth Ribbon (Fiocco Della Nascita)
One of my favorite Italian baby traditions is the fiocco della nascita (birth ribbon). When a baby is born in Italy, you’ll see a huge blue (for boys) or pink (for girls) ribbon placed on the family’s door to announce the new addition.
Sometimes the birth ribbons are also placed at the workplace of the father or mother, so you may see one outside of an office building or on the door of a clothing store.
If the door to the home is not easily seen, the ribbon is often placed on a gate or fence, or somewhere else easily visible so neighbors and passersby know of the new arrival.
While adherence to the Catholic faith isn’t as strong as it has been in the past, there are still Catholic traditions that hold strong in Italy, including choosing godparents for a new baby.
Italian parents have traditionally chosen godparents to give spiritual guidance to the new baby. Godparents are usually very involved in the baby’s baptism and help bring the child up in the Catholic church.
This is still the case, but there are also many Italian parents who aren’t devoted Catholics who still choose godparents for their children. Instead of offering spiritual guidance, they offer general life guidance and are there to support the child through life’s ‘ups and downs.’
There has been some controversy from the Catholic church about the purpose of godparents and some Italian parents are choosing to forgo the naming of godparents.
Baptisms in Italy can be more important than weddings. Some parents begin planning the new baby’s baptism from the hospital room, just after the baby is born.
There may be extensive guest lists, decadent and expensive menus, and fancy gifts for the guests.
And then, there are plenty of Italians that forgo this tradition.
Some others choose to have a ‘low-key’ baptism with close friends and family.
No Baby Shower
When I found out I was pregnant, I was so excited about having a baby shower, which is a big part of my home country’s culture. I mentioned it to a couple of Italian friends and I had to explain what a baby shower was.
Baby showers are NOT a thing in Italy, and unlike other foreign traditions that manage to sneak into the Italian culture (Halloween, Black Friday…), this one doesn’t have a chance.
Why? Because Italians think it’s bad luck to give a gift to the baby before birth.
No Gifts Until The Baby Is Born
That’s right. No gifts for the baby until birth. No cute little onesies, no blankets. No purchasing gifts and ‘tucking them away’ until the baby’s born. Italians believe it’s just asking for something to go wrong if you gift something to a baby before it’s born.
So, if you’re a big planner, take a deep breath. You’ll just have to wait until you get the call or WhatsApp message – then you can head to the store to pick out the perfect outfit or toy for the new arrival.
Camicia Della Fortuna (Part Of Corredino Nascita)
Many families have a camicia della fortuna, or a good luck shirt. This is a newborn-sized shirt that is passed down from generation to generation for each new baby in the family to wear at birth. It’s usually white (or sometimes red) and made of silk or cotton. It typically ties in the back. Some families don’t wash the shirt, instead folding it up and putting it away until the next baby in the family is born.
In other families, each baby is gifted his or her own camicia della fortuna to keep.
In this case, the camicia della fortuna may be a part of a corredino nascita, which is an entire birth set. The set often includes the good luck shirt, hat, socks, pants, bib, towel, blanket, crib bedding, and more. You can purchase the corredino nascita (and have it embroidered) at shops throughout Italy, or nonna may knit a special one for the nuovo arrivo (new arrival).
Gifts In The Hospital Room
While gifts aren’t given before the Italian baby’s birth, the scene in the hospital room is another story. Friends, family, and acquaintances all stop by to see the bambino or bambina and offer their congratulations to mamma and papà.
Italian moms usually share a hospital room with another mother and baby so it can be quite a party with family and friends for both parties visiting at the same time.
Traditional gifts for a baby in Italy include the corredino nascita birth set, a personalized baby blanket, made in Italy clothing (Gucci onesie, anyone?), and baby bath products.
The parents may have confetti di nascita (‘birth confetti,’ usually a small organza pouch of candy-covered almonds) on hand to give to each visitor.
Did you follow any or all of these Italian baby traditions?
We didn’t follow many Italian baby traditions for our three children. The traditions we did follow – we gave all of our children traditional Italian names, we baptized our first two children (although rather late for Italian standards), and I was gifted a camicia della fortuna for one of my boys (but he didn’t get to wear it because it was way too small for him at birth).