Here in Italy we have ‘La Befana’, much like Santa Claus, she fills the stockings with candy and toys for the good children or leaves a lump of coal for those who have misbehaved. Only La Befana is an old woman who rides a broom the and comes to visit the Eve of Epiphany. There are many versions of the story of La Befana this one sums it up quite nicely…
This story takes place at the time of the birth of Baby Jesus, the Christ Child. La Befana is an old woman who lives in a house in the hills of Italy. She once had a husband and child, but now lives alone. Befana spends her days sweeping and baking. One night, Befana notices a bright light in the sky, she thinks nothing of it and goes back to her work of sweeping and baking. Later, a glorious caravan led by Three Wise Men stop and ask Befana for directions to Bethlehem and invite Befana to join them in their search for the Christ Child. But Befana is too busy and knows nothing of this far-away place nor the birth of a special baby. After the caravan disappeared over the hills, Befana thought of how much she missed her child who sadly died at a very young age. She changed her mind and wanted to visit this special child, because she loves children very much. So she placed some baked goods and gifts for the child in a sack, took her broom to help the new mother clean and raced out after the caravan in search of the Baby Jesus. Befana soon was lost. And just as she tired, angels appeared from the bright light, the magic star, in the sky to give flight to Befana on her broom – after all this was a night of miracles. She searched and searched for the Baby Jesus. Befana still searches, even today, even after all these centuries. And so, every year on the eve of the Epiphany, whenever Befana comes to a house where there is a child, she drops in to see if it might be the child she seeks. It never is, but Befana leaves a gift anyway. For Befana has come to realize, over the years, that her searching is not vain, that in a way the Christ Child can be found in all children. [Taken from John D. Calandra Italian American Institute ]
You can be sure that we’ll have our stockings hung on the 5th of January waiting to see if La Befana comes to visit us too!
Florence will be celebrating the 6th of January with it’s historical reenactment of The Wise Men and about 700 other participants in a solemn procession through the city center. The Cavalcata will be dressed in beautiful silk dresses inspired by the fresco of Benozzo Gozzoli. They depart from Piazza Pitti at 2:00 pm and will arrive in Piazza Duomo at 3:3o pm where the Kings will leave their gifts at the feet of the Living Nativity. Here the story of the Magi will be read by the president of the Opera di Santa Maria del Fiore and finished with a greeting from the Archbishop of Florence, Cardinal Giuseppe Betori.