La Befana arrives with the three Kings

Epiphany, is going to be celebrated January 6th and it is  a national holiday in Italy. Epiphany commemorates the 12th day of Christmas when the three Wise Men arrived at the manger bearing gifts for Baby Jesus. The tradition of La Befana is a big part of Italian Christmas celebrations. The traditional Christmas holiday season in Italy lasts through Epiphany.

La Befana is a witch-like figure who arrives on her broomstick during the night of January 5 and fills the stockings with toys and sweets for the good children and lumps of coal for the bad ones.

The night before the Wise Men arrived, they stopped at the shack of an old woman to ask directions. Later that night, she saw a great light in the sky. She decided to join the Wise Men bearing gifts that had belonged to her child who had died, but she got lost and never found the manger.

La Befana today is on her broomstick, bringing gifts to children, and eventually ending up finding the Baby Jesus. Children in Italy hang their stockings on the evening of January 5.

The origins of La Befana are pagan: the Roman’s festival of Saturnalia is behind: it was a one or two weeks festival which started just before the winter solstice. At the end of Saturnalia, people went to the Temple of Juno on the Capitoline Hill to have their augers read by an old woman. The word auguri originated from this!

The town of Urbania, in Le Marche region, has a 4-day festival for La Befana (from January 2nd up to 6th) and a Regatta delle Bafane are held in Venice on January 6.

Milan has an Epiphany Parade of the Three Kings on January 6, going from the Duomo to the church of Sant’Eustorgio .

In the South of Italy it is very famous Rivisondoli, in the Abruzzo region, a little town which has a reenactment of the arrival of the 3 kings on January 5 with hundreds of  participants.

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