If you have been to Italy during the Christmas holidays, good chances are that just past the New Year Celebration, you might have seen in shops colorful stocking full of sweets, or dolls of an old lady with a broomstick.
Both the socks and the “old lady” are related to the Epiphany day, celebrated almost worldwide on the 6th of January, and called “La Befana ” in Italy.
La Befana vien di notte
con le scarpe tutte rotte
col cappello alla romana:
Viva viva la Befana!
(The Befana comes by night, with her shoes all tattered and torn, she comes dressed in the Roman way, long live the Befana!)
There are many versions of the story about how the Befana became a folkloristic tradition in Italy. However, these are most likely the most popular legends.
The oldest one goes back to Pagan times when the population followed the rhythms of nature. Legend says some women would fly over and bless the fields for the following 12 nights after the winter solstice, hoping for a generous crop to grow during the upcoming year.
Another legend, this time with a Christian twist, tells that the Befana was approached by the Three Kings (or so-called “Re Magi” in Italian) who were asking for directions to find the Son of God. The old lady offered them shelter for the night, but she could not help them find the way. On the following morning, she was asked if she wanted to join them on the journey, but she turned them down, being too busy with her housework. She then changed her mind, and she started looking for the same way the Three Kings went, but she could not find either them or baby Jesus. However, on the way, every time she founded a child in the house, she would leave candies or fruits to the kids who had behaved well, and a piece of coal to the naughty ones.
Today the tradition continues, so on the night of the 5th of January children leave out a sock, which will get filled in the morning with candies or coal (then replaced by sugar coal).
Have you been good this year?
So why don’t you keep out your Christmas stocking a little longer next Christmas, and leave a glass of wine and some cookies for the Befana?
Look out from your window and see if you can spot her flying on her broom while she is leaving gifts to the children.
In case the Befana did not pay you a visit leaving some candies, you can always pay us a visit and have a dessert from our menu. It’s guaranteed to satisfy your sweet tooth!