12.23.2008

La Befana

Since I am part Italian, I like to carry on some customs from my Dad's side of the family. I've been baking all sorts of Italian cookies the last two days mostly to give to my Dad as a gift since we are far away from any family members that could show up with a tin full of these treats for him this Christmas. When I was a child and we'd spend Christmas Eve at my grandparents home, my father aunts and cousins would bring over cookies and cakes all day long. People where constantly coming and going and my father would take my sister and myself over to other relatives home to wish them Merry Christmas.This was a great memory.


My father is now 71 and an only child. Many of his relatives have passed on and his 98 year old mother no longer cooks. For the last 10 years of so I've figured he has pretty much everything he needs at Christmas time so spend many nights making him a few cookies to bring a little bit of his youth back. He always opens the container with an "ohhhh or an Ahhhh", and this makes me happy.


My children learned all sorts of Christmas tradition this year in school and one was from Italy. I would often hear my grandmother talk about La Befana and how she and my grandfather would love to get oranges on Christmas morning in their socks. Wow, have things changed for children.If only I could make my crew this happy with an orange!


Here is a little bit about La Befana and the legend if you are not familiar with it.


"Deriving from the word Epiphany (Greek term meaning “manifestation” or “appearing”), the legend of “La Befana” is that of an old witch lady with a big red nose and slight hunch, dressed in a jacket of colorful patches.
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Legend has it that on the 12th night of Christmas (January 5th) the 3 Wise Men, on their search for the baby Jesus, asked “La Befana” to join them in their quest. She initially declined, stating she had too much housework to do. She later changed her mind and went looking for the 3 Wise Men and the baby Jesus, but was unable to find them.
Therefore, every year, on the night of January 5th, “La Befana”, will travel on her magic broom, to every house in Italy in search of the baby Jesus bringing gifts. Climbing down the chimneys, she brings candy (“caramele”) or fruit to the children that were good and black coal (“carbone”), onions or garlic to the children that were naughty. The children will leave out their stockings, and even their shoes, hoping to awake on the morning of January 6th to some “caramele”. Similar to the Santa Claus tradition, many of the children will write notes to “La Befana” and even leave out food for her (sausages and broccoli in some parts of Italy).
It is a tradition that is still strong in Italy with many stores selling stockings, mostly red, but sometimes even sand-colored, for the children to leave out for “La Befana”. It is a fairy-tale story of the good witch / bad witch, depending on how you behaved during the past year. After her arrival, there are many parties and Italians will celebrate going from house to house celebrating the bonds of family and friends.
Here is an Italian nursery rhyme that the children will sing for “La Befana”
La Befana vien di nottecon le scarpe tutte rottecol cappello alla romanaviva viva la Befana!
Rough Translation
The Befana comes at nightwearing old broken shoesdressed in Roman (hat) stylelong live la Befana!

1 comment:

Elaine Spallone said...

of course that sounds just like my xmases too, great memories. Miss those days...all the fish xmas eve. (this year was a friends, and it was sort of like a southern picnic, all good, but not what I am used to....next year the 7 courses of fish!!!