venerdì 27 dicembre 2013

La Befana - Epiphany

by Louisa Loring

The last day of Christmas, known as the Epiphany is not only a celebration of the three kings who brought gifts to baby Jesus on January 6th but also, a final day of celebration for Italian children. Children go to bed, their shoes laid out, empty but awaiting to be filled with a surprise in the morning. It is a tradition that goes back to the XIII century and is still to this day a favorite amongst children.

According to Italian story, the Befana, a women flies around on a broomstick, coming to each child to deliver a final gift to end the holiday season. She wears a cape and is covered in soot because she enters through the chimney like Santa Claus. Tradition has it that she leaves candy and small gifts in the shoes of those children who have been good and a lump of coal for those who have been naughty.
To celebrate the arrival of the Befana, Italians generally celebrate with fresh Cenci, meaning rags, which are a traditional Carnival pastry from Venice which is a kind of crunchy friend dough covered in powdered sugar. For the Epiphany Feast, Tuscans celebrate with plates of local cheeses and meats. To follow, broccoli is served with crostini and chicken liver pate. The primo might be as simple as pasta dressed with good olive oil or ravioli with ragu. For the main dish, pork sausages or lamb is prepared and for something sweet, a spice cake is served which is usually baked with a small bean or prize hidden inside which is meant to name the king of the feast for he who finds it in his slice. It is also custom to hide two, one for the king and one for the queen.
Cenci or frappe
To end festivities, Florence celebrates with a performance parade comprised of 800 people that runs from Palazzo Pitti to the Piazza del Duomo starting at 14.00. It is truly a sight to be seen for both children and adults with a pit stop in Piazza Signoria for a flag throwing show. The parade is full of falcons, flag throwers, women and men dressed in traditional costume, and of course, the Three Wise Men who deliver gifts to the baby Jesus in the Nativity scene in Piazza del Duomo.

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