Why do Italians watch Trading Places every Christmas?

It wouldn't be Christmas in Italy without Una Poltrona per Due on tv.

Italy is home to some of the world's oldest and most spectacular Christmas traditions that have illuminated and enriched the Italian festive season for centuries.

It also has some more unexpected modern-day traditions and none is more intriguing than the annual screening of Trading Places on Italian television on Christmas Eve.

Year after year, by popular demand, millions of Italians sit down to watch the dubbed version of the movie, Una Poltrona per Due.

The classic American comedy, a 20th-century take on the tale of the rich man (Dan Aykroyd) and the poor man (Eddie Murphy), has become a fixture in Italy every Christmas.

Trading Places is a festive favourite in Italy

The film was released in US cinemas on 8 June 1983, and in Italian cinemas on 19 January 1984.

Somewhat ironically - given what has happened since - although the film was an instant success in the US box office, in Italy it came only 13th in the ranking of most viewed films that year.

Directed by John Landis, the movie tells the story of an upper-class commodities broker (Akroyd) and a poor street hustler (Murphy) whose lives cross when they are unwittingly made the subject of an elaborate bet to test how each man would perform when their life circumstances are swapped.

First aired in Italy on Christmas Day in 1989, the movie has been screened on Christmas Eve in Italy 15 times between 1997 and 2019, and it is now a festive institution.

Italia 1 director Laura Casalotto explains: "I believe that Una Poltrona per Due works because at Christmas we want to always hear the same story: children are told about Santa Claus and the older ones want their story too.”

Dan Akroyd and Eddie Murphy in Una Poltrona per Due

There is also a significant economic factor: it costs much less to broadcast a classic, instead of purchasing the rights to a new title.

Whatever the reasons, public approval has remained consistently high down through the decades, with more than two million viewers watching in 2017.

There is even a Facebook fan page dedicated exclusively to the annual screening, with more than 7,000 fans.

The good news, for those who feared that 2020 might even have set its sights on Una Poltrona per Due, is that the much-loved classic will be aired as usual on Christmas Eve on Italia 1 at 21.30.