Here in Italy we eat lots of sweets and chocolates on 6th January. The Epiphany in Italy is a religious festival to commemorates the visit that Magi paid to the Christ Child. In truth it’s not more than a fairy tale and an excuse to extend the Christmas celebrations.
The story beyond: Three kings (the Magi) – Melchior, Balthazar and Gaspar – traveled from different countries, Nubia, Gedaliah and Tharsis, to bring gifts to infant Jesus: gold, frankincense and myrrh. They went through many countries following a star and in every place they passed, people flocked to meet them.
An old woman, the so called Befana, who at first wanted to go, changed her mind at the very last minute and refused to meet them. The day after she felt regretful so she tried to reach the Magi. They were already gone. Since then, in the night between 5th and 6th January, flying on a broom with a sack on his back, she goes from house to house to bring good children those gifts she was not able to give Jesus.
So every year we can celebrate just because of this story, isn’t that funny? Believe it or not, it’s a highly formative moment in the life of an Italian child. Any young human being in Italy gets a big sock on 6th January. If the child behaved well throughout the year, the sock contains only sweets; if he has been capricious it contains a few pieces of charcoal too (made of sugar!).
Only a few know the story of the Befana I just told you: many believe that the Befana is a witch or Santa Claus’ wife. I’m not a kid anymore but I still get a sock full of sweets every year. Today I also got some charcoal I used to sweeten my tea. An yet I was sure I behaved very well this year. 🙂