Epiphany celebrations in Italy: Befana like Santa

Epiphany celebrations in Italy: Befana like Santa
epiphany in rome

The Epiphany feast in Italy and its celebrations on January 6th in many regions that is spread to the rest of the peninsula. Epiphany is linked, in fact, to the adoration of the Magi who came to Bethlehem 12 days after Christ’s birth. The Latin and Greek churches have always celebrated it on January 6. The Greeks call it Theophania, the Feast of all feasts. For the French it is La Fête des Rois. But also its was pre-Christian and pagan rituals feast. For this reason it is a complex holiday that blends with the character of the places in which it is celebrated. This religious feast brings a perfect fulfillment of all the purposes of Advent. Epiphany, therefore, marks the liturgical zenith of the Advent-Christmas season. Three mysteries are encompassed in this solemnity: the adoration of the Christ Child by the Magi, the Baptism of Christ and the wedding feast at Cana from the Gospel.

The various celebrations in Italy: some traditions, the Befana is the female allegory of the old year ready to sacrifice itself. In some regions, a rag doll is burned in the square after a tour of the city streets on a wagon. In other cases, the puppet is shown at a window, as happens in Florence or Rome.

In the north this is very much alive. The symbolic bonfire is called “panevin“: this is a bonfire that tends to erase the negative aspects of the year which has just ended and seeks the auspices for the one that has just started The same happens in Friuli Venezia Giulia, accompanied by a glass of mulled wine.

In Florence the Epiphany celebrations every year it’s connected from the tradition of the Magi, the re-enactment of the Magi at the Holy Family. The flag wavers’ exhibition in Piazza della Signoria should not be missed.

In Faenza, in the province of Ravenna, this celebrations is called the Nott de Bisò on January 5th with the “Niballo“, a huge puppet which symbolizes all the misfortunes of the past year which is then burned. The bisò is mulled wine made from Sangiovese and spices.

In Montescaglioso, in the area of ​​Matera, January 5th is the time of celebrations the “Notte dei Cucibocca”: figures dressed in black, with a big hat and a bushy white beards their foot and knocking on doors to ask for food offerings.
This tradition is linked to the Epiphany.

In Sicily, in Gratteri, in the province of Palermo “A Old” (“Il vecchio“) emerges from the Cave of Grattara, wrapped in a white sheet and on the back of a city where she distributes gifts to children.

It is thus a magical feast, full of deep symbolic values ​​during which, in some locations its celebrations it is believed that even animals can talk and finally say what they think to humans. Epiphany therefore closes the Christmas holiday season (“L’ Epifania tutte le feste portavia“) and marks the beginning of Carnival celebrations.