La Befana..celebrating Epiphany

Welcome 2016….and let’s keep right on celebrating !

In Italy, the 6th of January is one big celebration. Epiphany is celebrated with as much gusto throughout Italy as Christmas itself. All kinds of events and celebrations take place, making sure that there’s something for everyone.

Now while a witch may seem like the sort of personage to celebrate at Halloween, the traditional figure of La Befana graces the dates around Epiphany. It’s a tradition that flies all the way back to the story of the Three Wise Men who came to an old woman looking for directions. While the old woman initially declined the Wise Men’s invitation to join them, she eventually agreed, but sadly got lost. The legend concludes that La Befana flies around to this day, still seeking out that location that she missed.

But on the way, she is said to pass through the houses of families to assess whether children should receive presents or stockings full of coal. Mind you, in Urbania, it’s possible to look up La Befana at La Casa della Befana between 2nd and 6th January as part of the region’s special festival.

Another notable La Befana festival takes place in Venice. Regata delle Befane is an annual event put on by Cannotieri Bucintoro rowing club. The regata pits five competitors, aged 55 or more, against each other to race in mascarete boats from the Palazzo Bilbo to the Rialto Bridge. Of course, this being an Epiphany celebration, the competitors dress up as La Befana! The event puts on a spread of food treats, drink and music including candy and chocolate.

A more formal celebration takes place in Vatican City, as the Pope delivers morning mass in St Peter’s Basilica which marks the Wise Men’s visit to Jesus. A procession comprises hundreds of people clad in medieval costume who walk to the Vatican bearing symbolic gifts for the Pope. Other historical processions include Florence’s Calvacata dei Magi, which takes place between Pitti Palace and the Duomo and Milan’s Epiphany Parade of the Three Kings.

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