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Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Memories of 'La Befana' or the Epiphany...

I can remember 'Little Christmas' with my nonni (grandparents) in the South Philadlephia neighborhhod that they lived in.. I knew they called it Little Christmas. Even though all my friends would take down their Christmas trees right after New Years' Day.. we had to leave our Christmas decorations up until January 6th. We would even go to Mass on January 6th for this 'Little Christmas'.
We would celebrate sometimes with a special dinner but I never really understood where this holiday of 'Little Christmas' came from.
Many years have passed and now that I call Italy my second home I understand what Little Christmas means. It is really the feast of La Befana that they were celebrating, the Epiphany. The last official day of the Christmas Holidays and about now I am ready for the Holidays to end here in Italy..what seemed like two solid weeks of non-stop eating will finally be coming to an end.

La Befana is the good Christmas witch who although tied to the Christian feast of Christmas also has pagan orgins.
She comes to good boys and girls on January 6th because that is when the 3 Wise Men brought gifts to the baby Jesus. She delivers gifts flying around on her broom.

But the pagans knew La Befana as a manifestation of Mother Nature. She was what Mother Nature became for winter solstice,an old witch and marked the end of this winter and the new beginning of the new sun. She was something that was old and the new weather would soon begin..and she was ready to be reborn with a new life and get rid of all of her wrinkles. But before she could be reborn into this new life she had to leave sweets and fruits so that the seeds of the fruits could be planted for the new year.
Today, as every holiday has become commercial,even in Italy-she only represents another holiday to receive and give gifts with most of La Befana's meaning and spirit forgotten about.

But no matter what religion you believe in, you can capture the original meaning of La Befana in your heart and make January 6th a day to think of new beginnings, the Spring that will come soon and the new weather it will bring and new beginnings that the New Year brings. She (La Befana) can bring you new beginnings and a way to get rid of the worn out things in your life to make room for the new,fresh possibilities.

As we say here in Italy "Buona Befana" for more thoughts and recipes on La Befana go to
For more recipes get your copy of the best selling book The Basic Art of Italian Cooking at

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