No school in Italy tomorrow… Grazie Befana!

Italian traditionsItalian children won’t go to school tomorrow and their parents won’t go to work either as the Epifania (Epiphany) is considered a festivity in Italy. It is, in fact, an important day for us as we all are celebrating our Befana. Children are very excited and have put up their calze (socks) so that the Befana will fill them tonight with some sweets and maybe some small presents. Some of them might also find some bigger presents under their socks, but only if they have been very good for mamma e papa’ (mom and dad). There is a bit of concern about the Italian mothers living here in Ireland about it. In fact, tomorrow school-aged children have to attend their classes and their parents have to work… no time for celebrating our Befana tomorrow morning. The majority of them will have had to celebrate it today… at least it is only one day in advance this year! Kevin and I are quite lucky. He’ll be at home tomorrow morning with me as I will be teaching tomorrow evening. Our three calze are here dangling down our mantelpiece and in a short while they will be full! Hopefully they won’t fall down as there are put up only with some thumb tacks. There won’t be any colourful carbone dolce (sweet coal) for Italian children here in Ireland as you can’t find it … In fact, the Befana is supposed to put coal in the socks of naughty children, but, as they are extincted, she uses only the sweet coal (candid), which look so nice.

Learning Italian

For those who don’t know who the Befana is… here is her story…

She is an old and ugly woman, with a hooked nose and a pointed chin and she is always pictured riding her broom among stars in the night. As she goes down the chimneys to bring sweets to children, she is also covered with soot. Legend says that she gave some food and pointed the right direction to the three wise men during their long journey. They invited her to come along to meet baby Jesus, but, as she had a lot of housework to do, she refused. When they left, she realized that it was very important to offer her greetings to baby Jesus. Therefore, she left her house and she started her journey on her broom, but she got lost! Since then, she is been looking for baby Jesus and going down all the chimneys to leave sweets in the socks which children have left for her hooked on the mantelpieces of their fireplaces. She still hopes that one of them will be baby Jesus! We have a nice and short poem for our Befana: La Befana vien di notte con le scarpe tutte rotte, col vestito alla romana… viva viva la Befana! This means: The Befana comes by night, with her shoes all tattered and torn, she comes dressed in the Roman way long life to the Befana!

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