The Befana comes by night
With her shoes all tattered and torn
She comes dressed in the Roman way
Long live the Befana!
Tomorrow, January 6, is the day of Epiphany, a Christian religious celebration in honor of the day the three wise men arrived in Bethlehem to visit the baby Jesus. In Italy, the celebration involves a witch, La Befana, who flies on her broom on the night of January 5 to deliver candies to all good children, or coal to the bad ones!
In olden days, Italian children didn't get gifts on Christmas from Santa, only candies on January 6 from La Befana. In more recent times, Santa (Babbo Natale) delivers presents to Italian children too. Lucky Italian kids!
January 6 is also marks the end of the Christmas/New Year's holidays. It's a long two weeks of almost non-stop eating, starting with Christmas eve, then Christmas day, then Santo Stefano day on December 26. There's a little break, but it seems we're still stuffing ourselves on traditional sweets of panettone or pandoro until New Year's eve. On that night, you eat a huge meal, cenone consisting of many, sometimes up to 15, different courses of food. And, again on New Year's day there is more food, when families eat a traditional meal of lentils and cotechino, similar to a sausage. Lentils supposedly bring good luck or good fortune in the new year, so of course, you cannot miss eating those. Christmas trees and decorations stay up until January 6.
In other Italian cities, there is a huge bonfire on the night of January 5 to celebrate the arrival of La Befana. In Venice, things are handled a bit differently. Tomorrow morning at 10 am there will be a regatta in the Grand Canal starting at San Toma and ending at the Rialto bridge. Rowers will all be dressed as Befanas, with shawls, dresses, hats and wigs. At the end of the race, there will be mulled wine, hot chocolate and candies for all.
Get your cameras ready tomorrow morning, find a spot along the Grand Canal near Rialto. I'll meet you there!