La Befana is the last celebration of Christmastime in Italy happening every 6 January. on the day of Ephiphany. According to the Christian custom, that day the 3 biblical Magi lastly meet the child Jesus. In the Italian Christmas folklore, we also celebrate the coming of the Befana, an old female riding a broomstick through the air.
On the night of 5 January, she provides sugary foods and candies to the great kids. But also coal, garlic, and onions in the red ones. In Tuscany, the Befana is still an actually relevant banquet. It resembles a second Christmas, and originally it was more crucial than Santa Claus.
The Origins of La Befana
The name Befana probably stems from Surprise, in Italian is Epifania. It is a word with Greek origins that means “manifestation” of the divinity.
The Surprise is the last feast of Christmas time, that’s why we state „L’Epifania Tutte le feste si porta through“. Actually, Epiphany takes all the festivities away.
We can trace back the origins of the Befana to the X-VI century BC. At that time, people used to make pagan propitiatory rituals that represented the start of the brand-new year in the agriculture calendar. Earth Mom, diing, was prepared to re-birth, as celebrated in the Sol Invictus and the Dyonisiac myth.
The ancient Romans acquired this routine too. They thought that throughout these days, feminine animals flying above the fields would have brought about exceptional outcomes for the future harvests.
La Befana represents also the end of the year. In truth, the symbol of this unsightly however kind old lady is the broom. She utilizes to sweep all the past things away, preparing a clean space for the new ones.
According to a Tuscan custom-made, the act of burning a Befana puppet was a representation of completion of the year. The remaining coal was positioned in the kids’s socks with sweets as a memory of the past year.
Who is La Befana
La Befana is not really great looking. She is an old woman with an aquiline nose, a few rotten and uneven teeth. Her face has a number of warts and moles. However she has always a smiling face even if she has a grim appearance. She wears an old black shawl and is covered by a layer of soot due to the fact that she gets in the kids’s houses through the chimney.
We utilize to sing this little folk song:
La Befana vien di notte (Italian Version)
La Befana vien di notte, Con le scarpe tutte rotte, Col vestito alla romana Viva, Viva La Befana!
Here is the english version:
The Befana comes over night With her shoes all tattered and torn, She comes worn the Roman way, Long live the Befana!
On the night of 5 January, she goes around bring a big hinder or a sack filled with candies and gifts for the kids. In the house, kids hang stockings on the mantelpiece (or shoes out of the window) so Befana could fill them with presents.
If you want to discover a way into an Italian female’s heart, never say that she looks like a Befana. She will get actually upset!
The legends of the Befana
According to a Christian legend, the 3 Wise Men met the Befana on their method to Bethlehem to honor the Son of God. They informed this old lady that they were following a Comet Star in the sky. They requested more details, but she was completely uninformed about it.
Anyhow, she offered them a shelter for the night. She was considered the best housemaid in the village with the most enjoyable home. Instead, the 3 Wise Guys invited her to join their trip to honor baby Jesus. But she decreased, being too hectic with her housework.
After the Three Magi left, she is sorry for and went out in the middle of the night to discover them and the Child Jesus. To be sure of giving presents to the right child, she left something for each kid. From that moment she invests the night of 5 January bringing presents to every child in Italy.
Another Christian legend states that Befana was a common woman with a child. She considerably liked him but regrettably, he died. She was, of course, complete of sorrow and discomfort. However after a couple of days, becoming aware of the birth of baby Jesus, she chose to visit and honor him, bringing his child’s clothes as presents. Jesus, discovering the pain for her loss, offered her a gift in return. She would have been the mom of every child in Italy.
Childhood memories about Befana
I have a funny memory from when I was about 5 years old. I remember I was awaiting the Befana staring at the night sky with my mom. We saw a traffic signal in the dark, most likely was an aircraft. However to me, that was the traffic signal of the engine of Befana’s broomstick. My mother didn’t inform me the fact. She simply confirmed my thought keeping back chuckles.
Furthermore, when I was a kid, I utilized to take part in the ritual of “Pefani”, nowadays fallen under disuse. Pefani was a self-governing group of kids all dressed as the Befana, typically with someone older as a leader. My good friends and I were going around singing and playing the popular songs of the Befana. We wanted to gather as much money or sweets as we could. This routine recalls to my mind a sort of Halloween.
Besides all type of candies, in my family, we utilized to fill hang socks above the chimney fill them also with standard Befanini cookies. On Epiphany’s Eve on 5 January, my mother ready Necci, a kind of crepe made with chestnut flour and filled with fresh ricotta cheese. So tasty.
Necci filled with Ricotta Cheese To discover other food cravings of the Tuscan Christmas tradition, have a look at the post about the Christmas cakes of Tuscany.
Montignoso, the Village of Befana
Montignoso is a little town in the province of Massa-Carrara, in northern Tuscany. Here the custom of Befana is still truly vivid, and both adults and kids celebrate her with fun and joy. On the night of the Epiphany ´ s Eve, small groups of individuals, dressing like the Befana, utilize to visit each family of the town.
Without saying a word, they knocked at their doors, using candies to the kids, and getting back glasses of warm drinks and other sweets too. This was the method to celebrated Befana in the eighties. Nowadays the routine altered ending up being a more contemporary occasion with music and home entertainment along the streets of the town.
Befana’s Flight in Equi Terme
On January 6, in the town of Equi Terme in northern Tuscany, La Befana flies genuine. Through a zipline, an acrobatic Befana on her broomstick flies high in the sky crossing a canyon to reach the nativity cavern.
This small hamlet situated in Lunigiana hosts every year a wonderful living nativity scene that attracts visitors from all over the area. Here we give all information you require if you want to attend the living nativity scene of Equi Terme.
On the day of Epiphany, three real smart Kings walk around the little alleys to reach the grotto where infant Jesus quietly lies surrounded by the Virgin Mary, Joseph, the ox, and the donkey. So does the Befana, flying over visitor’s heads!
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Cover photo credits Simone Zucchelli