A familiar aspect of the traditional Roman Christmas - which is sadly becoming less common in the twenty-first century - is the presence of pifferari (bagpipers) on the streets.These musicians originally came from the Abruzzi to the Eternal City at this time of year to play devotional music before the shrines. However, they could be a nuisance. Stendhal complained that the pifferari 'have been waking us up at 4 in the morning. It's enough to make man hate music.' They could even introduce lyrics questioning the virtue of the wives of those who failed to give them donations! After a Christmas in Rome, some of these pipers could return to the Abruzzi with as much as 100 scudi.
It is a spectacle at once edifying and picturesque, to see a street in Rome brilliantly lighted by thousands of luminous specks [the lights before the street shrines], like the fire-flies of Italy, and resounding with the rustic music of the pifferari of Calabria or the Abruzzi. At all times these mountain musicians assemble a great concourse of people at the foot of the Madonnas, especially in Advent; for they seem anxious to introduce by their rural airs the feast of the shepherds, the most holy night of Christmas. (Abbe Orsini)
The following video gives a good impression of what these instruments sound like. Be patient, the zampogna (pipes) only get going about 45 seconds into the footage! It may not be your cup of tea, but you immediately think of the shepherds (often shown with bagpipes) adoring the Christ Child in the great Old Masters.