While in most other parts of the world, Christmas and New Year holidays have now come to an end, Italians are still celebrating. On January 6, the Epiphany, is a national holiday to commemorate the visit of the Three Kings, to the manager of Baby Jesus.
The Feast of the Epiphany is an important post-Christmas date on the calendar and is a national holiday in Italy. The tradition of La Befana, who arrives on the Epiphany, plays a big in the Italian Christmas holidays. Befana also marks the end of Christmas and New Year’s festivities in Italy. The children go back to school, adults go back to work, and the Christmas decorations come down.
The Feast of the Epiphany commemorates the twelfth day of Christmas, when the three Wise Men arrived at the manger bearing gifts for Baby Jesus.
La Befana, arrives on her broomstick during the night of January 5th with toys and sweets for the good children and lumps of coal for the bad ones.
According to legend, the night before the Wise Men arrived at the manger they stopped at the shack of an old woman to ask directions. They invited her to come along but she replied that she was too busy. A shepherd asked her to join him but again she refused. Later that night, she saw a great light in the sky and decided to join the Wise Men and the shepherd bearing gifts that had belonged to her child who had died.
She got lost and never found the manger.
Now La Befana flies around on her broomstick each year on the night before Epiphany, bringing gifts to children in hopes that she might find the Baby Jesus. Children hang their stockings on the evening of January 5th, awaiting the visit of La Befana.
La Befana Festivals
The town of Urbania in Le Marche, holds a four-day festival for La Befana from January 2 to 6. Children can visit her at the La Casa della Befana. This is one of the biggest celebrations in Italy.
The Befane races, Regata delle Bafane, are held in Venice on January 6. Men dressed as La Befana race in boats on the Grand Canal.
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