Happy New Year everyone!!!…Celebrating the 12th day of Christmas when the three Wise Men arrived at the manger bearing gifts for Baby Jesus, Ephinany (6th January) is the main day for gift giving in Italian households, but is not Santa who brings the presents down the chimney…..
Italian folklore has its own gift barer and on the evening of January 5th Italian children eagerly hang up their stocking and await the visit of La Befana.
The night before they arrived to greet baby Jesus in his manger, the three Wise Men had decided to stop at the shack of an old woman to ask directions. They invited her to come along but after she declined and they continued on their way, later that night a shepherd also asked her to join him but again she refused. Much later that night, after seeing a great light in the sky she decided she would join the Wise Men and the shepherd. She went round her house collecting gifts that once belonged to her deceased children and then set off to find the stable housing Jesus. That fateful night she lost her way and never found the manger……
Now the legendary witch know as La Befana flies around on her broomstick, weaing a black shawl and a shoot covered dress she brings gifts to children in the hope that one day she might just find the Baby Jesus in his stable.
In Italy the kind witch is as loved as Santa Claus and on the 6th of January almost every city and town organizes some sort of event or parade. Here’s 3 of the best…..
1. Urbania, Le Marche – The medieval town has a huge festival for Epiphany and La Befanna, the towns piazza del Mercato is turned into the piazza dei Giochi (Games Square) for the children and they also get the chance to meet the witch herself in La Casa della Befana. The 4-day festival for La Befana from January 2-6 and is one of the biggest celebrations for La Befana in Italy.
2. Vatican City – The Pope says a morning mass in St Peter’s Basilica and a procession of hundreds of people in medieval costumes walk along the wide avenue which leads up to the Vatican, each carrying gifts for the Pope.
3. Fiera della Befana, Rome – The Christmas market in Piazza Navona is transformed, stalls selling hot wine and sugar coated apples surround the fun and games in the piazza. With organised activities in the centre and the stalls laid around the edges make this a great place for children to have fun centre stage while adults can relax and enjoy the friendly atmosphere.
If you choose not to celebrate this holiday or haven’t fallen in love with the Italian legend then you may be pleased to hear that the New Year is also the time for the winter sales in Rome, so you can can search through the designer stores for your very own gift!