Today, January 5, is Epiphany Eve. It's an important day for observing some old Italian traditions- Panevin also known as Pirola Parola, and La Befana.
Panevin is a huge bonfire lit up on the night of January 5, in celebration of the winter solstice. On the top of the bonfire is a figure of an old woman, called Vecia or "old lady". She is supposedly guilty all the bad things that have happened during the past year, and because of that she is burned.
While the bonfire is burning, people near the fire read the smoke and sparks of flames as a prediction of the coming year's harvest. If the smoke and sparks are going to the south and west directions, this means a good harvest. Obviously, smoke going in the opposite directions, the north and east, bring a bad harvest.
Tonight, in areas around Venice, such as Jesolo and Malamocco on the Lido, the Panevin will take place.
(Photos courtesy VeneziaToday)
La Befana, derived from the word epifania, Italian for Epipany, is an Italian children's tradition based on an old legend. There was an old widow, back in the time of the birth of Jesus, who is known for sweeping, cleaning and baking. One night she notices a bright light in the sky, and later, a group of wise men leading a caravan stop at her house. They invite her to join them on their journey to Bethlehem, but she declines their invitation. Later, she decides she should catch up with them, because she also wanted to visit the special child the wise men were headed to. She places some baked goods in a bag as a gift for the child, grabbed her broom, and went off after the wise men. Not long after, she got lost. Angels appearing from this bright light, the magic star, caused la Befana's broom to fly, sending her off into the night looking for Baby Jesus. La Befana still searches the night sky every January 5, dropping in at all the homes of children to see if they might be the child she is looking for, and leaves a gift for any good child.
All over Italy tonight, stockings will be hung for La Befana to fill with candies. There is a traditional poem for La Befana children sing :
La Befana vien di notte
con le scarpe tutte rotte
col cappello alla romano
Viva, viva, la Befana!
The befana comes at night with her shoes all tattered and torn, she comes dressed in the Roman way,
Long life to the Befana!
Tomorrow, here in Venice, La Befana is celebrated with a regatta down the Grand Canal, from Palazzo Bilbo at San Toma to the Rialto Bridge. The race is sponsored by the Canotierri Bucintoro, one of the rowing clubs of Venice. Five of the club's male members over 55 yrs old dress up in La Befana costumes and row down the Grand Canal. Hot chocolate and vin brule are served by the rowing club on the banks of Fondamenta del Vin. Tomorrow around 10:30 events will begin at Rialto, the race starting at 11.
Per usual, I will be at my post near the traghetto stop at San Silvestro tomorrow morning, watching the Befana regatta. See you there!