Christmas in Rome is a unique time of the year, characterized by falling leaves, misty mornings and glorious sunsets. There are virtually no red balls or green garland, few (and dismal) glittering lights, and not one single caroler in the entire city (buskers don't count). Instead, it is the time of the year for sipping hot chocolate (senza panna) on a piazza and strolling around Piazza Navona or along the via del Corso. For those who live here, Christmas time conjures up not the relentless sounds and colors of Christmas, but instead such glorious treats as cold clementines and warm Pandoro or Panettone for breakfast.
Homes are decorated not with tinsel-covered trees, but instead with painstakingly prepared presepe. Commercialism lives, sure, but Santa Claus has been coming to Rome for not much more than a decade. Instead, the befana or Christmas witch brings the good stuff on January 6, the feast of the Epiphany. Surprisingly, Christmas in Rome has less to do with the Vatican's religious onslaught than most other seasons. Instead, it's not far removed from the Pagan ritual of Saturnalia, which was characterized by over-indulgence, extravagant gift giving and the relaxation of the rules.
For further reading, check out Roman Holiday on Budget Travel Online.