|Nativity scene at Church of the Redentore|
One thing the US seems to have lost completely is the celebration of Twelfth Night, January 5, the Eve of Epiphany, and the Epiphany itself, which is today, January 6, and the end of the Christmas season. We still sing the "Twelve Days of Christmas," but do not stop to ponder the origins of the tune.
|Giant stocking hanging from Rialto Bridge|
"The name Befana appeared historically for the first time in writing in a poem by Agnolo Firenzuola in 1549. She is portrayed like an old ugly woman, dressed in dark rags who during the night between 5th and 6th January flies over the houses riding her broom and entering through the chimneys. Into the socks that children left hanging near the fireplace she leaves candies and gifts for good children, black coal (actually black sugar today), garlic and onions to the bad ones."
|Befana Regatta - Photo: Marco Secchi for Getty Images at KSDK.com|
"The name "Befana" is a popular version of the Greek term "Epiphany" which was the festivity following Christmas, commemorating the visit of the Magi to the Baby Jesus on 6th January. According to the legend the three wise men on their journey were stopped by an old woman with a broom who asked them where they were going. They told her that they were following a star that would lead them to a newborn baby, and invited her to come along. But she replied that she was busy sweeping and cleaning and did not go. When she realized that the baby was the Redeemer that all the world had been waiting for her regret was so great that she continues to wander about Italy and at the Epiphany (January 6, when the Wise Men finally found the Child Jesus), begins rewarding good children and disappointing those who were bad."
In Venice, the holiday has morphed into its own unique celebration with Venetian male rowers dressed in drag racing in a short regatta on the Grand Canal. I have written about this many, many times before:
|Befane on the Street Photo: Cat Bauer|
"Nicholas' tomb in Myra had become a popular place of pilgrimage. Because of the many wars and attacks in the region, some Christians were concerned that access to the tomb might become difficult. For both the religious and commercial advantages of a major pilgrimage site, the Italian cities of Venice and Bari vied to get the Nicholas relics.
Taking advantage of the confusion, in the spring of 1087, sailors from Bari in Apulia seized part of the remains of the saint from his burial church in Myra, over the objections of the Orthodox monks. Returning to Bari, they brought the remains with them and cared for them. The remains arrived on 9 May 1087. There are numerous variations of this account. In some versions those taking the relics are characterized as thieves or pirates, in others they are said to have taken them in response to a vision wherein Saint Nicholas himself appeared and commanded that his relics be moved in order to preserve them from the impending Muslim conquest.
|Church of San Nicolò on the Lido|
|Le Donne in Rosa give out the goodies|
Ciao from Veneiza,
Venetian Cat - The Venice Blog