Epifania (Epiphany), January 6th

 

In Italy the 6th of January is actually a two events in one special. The first is the Catholic celebration of the first public manifestation of Jesus, when he was joined and worshipped by the Magi. The event is remembered with special masses and processions.

What really makes this date special to every Italian family, however, is the pagan celebration of the Befana, a folkloristic figure of an old hag whose name is a corruption of “epifania” itself. The Befana is a benign witch who rides a flying broom and represents the last traces of the year that has barely ended days before. Historically, before the Nordic figure of Santa Claus entered Italian traditions as “Babbo Natale”, the Befana was the character who visited every kid’s home, bringing sweets and nice presents to the good ones, and leaving just coal to the naughty ones. Now the Befana is a sort of “lesser Christmas” event for children. The kids traditionally hang a sock in their kitchen or living room, to find it filled with candies and black sugar lumps representing coal on the morning of the 6th. Pre-filled, industrial sock-like containers are also common.