On January the 6th, during the early and cold hours of the night, an old Italian lady flies on her broom over the Italian landscape and delivers goodies and the occasional piece of coal. The night before, kids write letters asking the Befana to bring them nice toys, and to ingratiate her they also leave cookies and milk by the empty stockings. Nowadays, she is getting mellow and doesn’t leave real coals anymore. I do remember the real deal. It was a nasty affair. My kids are older, but I still love to celebrate this Italian holiday with them. Filling the stockings with their favorite sweets— Duplo bars, Happy Hippo, and the classic Kinder bars—and the chocolate coins—we found the euros version—and small gifts brings me back to the time when I was on the receiving end of the Befana. I liked her way better than Santa Claus, because on the Epiphany everybody living in or nearby Rome went to Piazza Navona to see the Befana’s market. Hundreds of street vendors selling cheap toys and mouth-watering sweets. The aroma of cotton candy and roasted chestnuts still reminds me of the sixth of January. One day late, but Buona Befana, everybody!
* A small Befana garland I made before I moved to the States. One Christmas, I had lots of fun modeling Santa Clauses, Nativities, and Befane with cold porcelain. I even decorated the Christmas tree with cold porcelain decorations.
**An image I took from my first grade’s Italian reading book. It was called “Semi” (seeds) by Rossella Balzi Monti, Janus publishing house. Wherever you are, Miss Rossella, know that I loved your books and they have a special place in my heart.