What is Italian Epiphany?
On January 6 in Italy, as in other countries of the world, the Epiphany is celebrated. The epiphany is a party felt especially by children who on this day receive the stocking.
There are various traditions throughout Italy and the celebrations change from region to region; in some parades are organized, in others are traditional bonfires and in others, the streets of the cities are filled with markets.
The Epiphany is also the last day of vacation for children and the day to remove the Christmas decorations from the house. It is said that “L’Epifania che tutte le feste porta via” translated in " The Epiphany all the holidays take away".
Why is La Befana celebrated?
The Befana has very ancient origins to date back to the times of the Romans. For the Romans, the Epiphany flying over the fields should have brought prosperity in the harvest.
According to Christian tradition, the Epiphany celebrates the arrival of the Magi to the manger of Jesus with gifts.
For the most recent tradition, the Epiphany is a symbol of the past year, and that’s why it is represented old while bringing candy to children as a symbol of good luck for the new year.
How is La Befana?
The Epiphany is represented as an old lady with old, shabby clothes, broken shoes and on top of a broom.
In the night between the 5th and the 6th of January, the Befana flies over the roofs of the houses and fills the socks of the children with sweets for the good children and coal for the bad children. I must say, however, that I loved coal as a child because it was made of black sugar.
This is the tradition that is now the same among all the regions of Italy from north to south; while traditions change in the way of celebrating this day.
What are the traditions of Epiphany?
In my little town, you burn the old one. From small to large, everyone gathers near the river; located in the middle of the river there is a high pile of wood and on top of it there is the Epiphany: it is called Pan and Vin. The divers swim in with the torches in their hands and light the bonfire. According to tradition, the direction of the ash tells whether it will be a good year or a bad year.
At the end of the bonfire, the stocking with sweets inside is delivered to children while for adults there is mulled wine and Pinza. Pinza is a traditional Venetian cake made with stale bread, milk and dried fruit.
The tradition of the bonfire is very rooted between Veneto and Friuli Venezia Giulia where every small town has its bonfire placed in water or on land and its Befana to burn.
The Regatta is typical in Venice. The regatta is a parade of boats in the Grand Canal and becomes special for the Epiphany because the people inside the boats dress like the Epiphany or Santa Claus.
Every year in Milan the Epiphany is celebrated with a parade. From the Duomo to the Basilica of Sant'Eustorgio a procession of people dressed as the wise men parade through the streets with gifts to be given to a living crib.
In Rome, the Epiphany is celebrated in Piazza Navona with stalls selling sweets and games and then people move to see the traditional parade "Viva la Befana".
In Naples, the Befana is celebrated in Piazza del Plebiscito that every year is coloured and populated with markets that sell sweets, toys and typical Neapolitan food.
Each Italian region is unique and different and for this reason, each one has its own traditions to celebrate January 6 the important thing is to find the stocking full of sweets.