Christmas is celebrated in Italy in a similar fashion to other Western European countries, albeit with a stronger emphasis given by the media to the Christian meaning of the holiday and its celebration by the Roman Catholic Church, also reinforced by the still widespread tradition of setting up the presepe, a tradition initiated by Saint Francis of Assisi.
Christmas decorations, including the presepe, as well as the Christmas tree, are usually put up on the 8th December, a national holiday. On Christmas Eve in some areas it is a custom not to eat any meat. Some people, especially in the South, tend to celebrate on Christmas Eve; dinner traditionally consists of seafood, with the "feast of the seven fishes", followed by typical Italian Christmas sweets, such as pandoro, panettone, torrone, panforte, struffoli, caggionetti, Mont Blanc (dessert) or others, depending on the regional cuisine. It is quite common, for religious families, to attend midnight mass on the evening of the 24th of December. In Northern Italy it is more common to celebrate Christmas on the 25th with a family lunch, consisting of different types of meat dishes, cheese and local sweets. Traditionally, Northern Italy sees Christmas both as a secular and religious holiday, while Southern Italy puts a strong and deep emphasis on its Catholic meaning.