We've moved from Baltimore, Maryland USA to Venice, Italy in pursuit of living our dream!

Sunday, January 3, 2010

La Regatta delle Befane, The Witches Race January 6, 2010

I got up this morning thinking this would be the perfect day to take down the Christmas decorations and get them all packed away. I still had my morning tea, and a few other miscellanous tasks to handle before I got started on that project though. And, wouldn't you know it, one of those little pesky tasks completely changed my thoughts about Christmas decorations. Here's how it all transpired....

In the back of my head I knew that the Befana regatta in Venice was supposed to be held on January 6 every year. I'd missed it somehow last year, but had no intention of missing it this year. With my morning tea in hand, I did a google search for La Befana.

La Befana is a witch. She has a long crooked nose, wears a tattered shawl with colorful patches on it, and rides a broomstick.

January 6, the 12th day of Christmas,is an important holiday in Italy. It's the day the wise men were supposed to have arrived at the manger bearing their gifts. This day, the Feast of the Epiphany, marks the end of the Christmas holiday season in Italy. There is a legend that says the Wise Men stopped at the home of an old woman to ask directions to the manger, they invited her along, but she declined. Later, she saw a great light in the sky and decided to go join the Wise Men. She got lost, and never arrived.

Children all over Italy hang their stockings and wait for La Befana on the 11th night, January 5th. She brings chocolates and little presents to all the children who have been good, and coal (carbone) to the bad ones. There is even a special song for the occassion-

La Befana Song

La Befana comes at night
with her shoes all tattered and torn
She comes dressed in the Roman way
Long live La Befana!

January 6th, Epiphany, also marks the end of the holiday season, meaning children go back to school and parents go back to work! Sales also start in all the stores.

In Venice, festivities on January 6 include a very special regatta, La Regatta delle Befane-- the Witches Race. This year is the 32nd annual regatta. Gondoliers dress up in costumes as La Befana and have a race on the Grand Canal. Large stockings are hung as decorations from the Rialto Bridge, and refreshments of chocolates, mulled wine, hot chocolate and tea are served to all before the race begins. At 9:30 am, the race crews will depart from the Salt Warehouse at the Bucintoro club on the Zattere for the Grand Canal. The race starts at 11 am at San Toma and finish at the Rialto bridge.

And how did this change my plans for taking down the Christmas decorations??? I discovered it's Italian tradition to leave Christmas trees up until after January 6. That works for me! I have plans to be at the Befana regatta on the 6th. My tree will just have to wait!

La Befana Song

La Befana comes at night

with her shoes all tattered and torn

She comes dressed in the Roman way

Long live the Befana!


Yvonne said...

I've got this on my list for 2011/2012! Have fun! We look forward to some good photos.

We're all enjoying your blogs again, well done, Karen.

karen said...

I'm looking forward to a few good photos myself!!! Can't wait. I have a few gondolier friends now and was hoping at least one of them would be in the race. One of them tells me his father used to do it when he was still rowing. I'm sure it will be fun regardless. I've left our stockings up for La Befana also :)