According to the Christian Italian Church, the 6th of January coincides with the Epiphany.
According to the Gospel of Matthew, the day of Epiphany is when the three wise men coming from Persia, Melchior, Caspar and Balthazar followed the star of Bethlehem across the desert to meet the baby Jesus, offering gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh.
The name Befana is a distortion of the term Epiphany, but the figure of the old woman “who comes at night with her shoes all broken” belongs to a completely different tradition. It is a typically Italian popular figure, little known in the rest of the world, which has its roots in pagan propitiatory rites linked to the winter solstice and the harvest of the new year.
There is another character linked to Epiphany which is called Befana.
The legend says that Kings, on their way to Bethlehem, would have asked for information from an elderly woman they met along the way. The woman, who refused to follow them, later regretted her decision. He then left with a basket of sweets and, stopping to knock on every door in search of Jesus, he gave gifts to every child he met.
Since then, Befana would travel the world, giving sweets to those who have been good, or coal. And tucking the gifts into stockings by the fireplace or hanging around the house.
January 6th, also gathers lots and lots of Befane and Befani. Normally, before Covid, in some Italian places on this occasion was filled with hundreds of people who, among songs, dances and beauty contests, paid homage to the arrival of the old Befana.
In central Italy, the typical dishes for the occasion remain: “Befanini”, shortbread biscuits covered with colored sugars, the “Fugassa d’la Befana”, with raisins and candied fruit and the “Pepatelli” based on honey, almonds and orange peel of southern Italy.
In Uk and in some branches of Christianity this day is called Twelfth night, a count of exactly 12 days from 25 December.
A superstition in some English-speaking countries suggests it unlucky to leave Christmas decorations hanging after Twelfth Night. Other popular customs include eating King cake.
People in Uk celebrate the twelfth night tradition called Wassailing, from the hot and spicy punch drink called wassail. A lot of people gather to drink apple trees to each other health and eat the famous Twelfth night cake, a rich and dense fruitcake which traditionally contained a bean. If you got the bean then you were King or Queen of the Bean and everyone had to do what you told them to do.
Traditional Twelfth Night foods include anything spicy or hot, like ginger snaps and spiced ale.
People used to have parties and it was traditional to play practical jokes on your friends and neighbours.
Epiphany also coincides with removing the Christmas decorations and also marks the restart of our life made up of appointments, agendas, gym and diets, or likewise said, the ‘Dry January’.
After many dinners and snacks based on panettone and exclusive 1000 calories dishes, it’s time to get back in shape with low calorie dishes.
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See you soon and enjoy this day.