La Befana, the good Christmas witch will fill your stockings with candies and fruits and little presents but if you have been bad she is more likely to fill your stocking with 'carbone' or coal.
As I have been continuing with excerpts from my upcoming book
The Basic Art of Italian Cooking-Holidays & Special Occasions (to be released in 2008)
Here is the chapter on La Befana;
I have had an unbelievable holiday season at my grandfather's vineyard in Italy. While in the USA, the Holiday Season is over. We can remain basking in the glow of the Holiday spirit for one last day.
I still have one more holiday to celebrate- La Befana.
“La Befana e propria brava” ( roughly translated means: “the Befana is a wonderful person) said Sofia as all listened intently. We had just finished a sumptuous afternoon Holiday dinner. It all began with a traditional Italian wedding soup, followed by homemade ravioli filled with fresh ricotta and spinach mixture topped with a homemade tomato sugo (sauce). And as if that wasn’t enough..next came roasted chicken with roasted potatoes, insalata russa (similar to an American potato salad- potatoes, peas, chopped carrots, mayonnaise) then came the cheese plate with locally made bread, then the fresh fruit and nut plate then dessert-oh did I forget to mention the sparkling white Prosecco.
Sofia continued recounting the story about how she had grown up overnight because La Befana came in the middle of the night to her room and took her pacifier and left her a stocking full of gifts-as it is customary to do for the Epiphany or La Befana Sofia is 3 ½ yrs old and her mother has been thinking of a way to get her to stop using her pacifier.
This holiday had come with perfect timing. Sofia was happy because she had a delightful story to tell at dinner and had gotten a stocking full of gifts. She knew that mamma and nonna were happy that she would no longer be with pacifier as well
La Befana, (The Christmas Witch) or The Epiphany is celebrated in Italy and throughout Europeon January 6th. La Befana rides through the night sky on her broom carrying presents and sweets for children
Her name is derived from the celebration of The Epiphany, which is the "climax of the Christmas season and the Twelve Days of Christmas...usually counted from December 25th through January 5th," culminating in a feast and celebration on January 6th.
Being a fine housekeeper, and having a broom with which to ride, some say she will sweep the floor before she leaves. The family, in anticipation of her arrival, typically sets out a small glass of wine and few morsels of food for their Christmas Witch.
La Befana is typically portrayed as a witch, only she is smiling and has a bag full of candy and gifts for good girls and boys. And like Santa Claus, she leaves behind "coal" for those who are bad. Except often, it's a piece of hard rock candy instead!
There is a poem about La Befana, which is well-known throughout Italy:
La Befana vien di notte (La Befana comes at night)Con le scarpe (With the broken shoes)Tutte rotte vien vestita (She comes dressed in)Alla romana (Peasant Roman style)Viva, Viva La Befana! (Long live La Befana!)
The Basic Art of Italian Cooking also makes a great gift for La Befana or any Holiday..
You can still get a $5 discount off retail price and free shipping and handling if you order at http://www.marialiberati.com/ A portion of your purchase price goes to Gilda's