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Posted on Thursday, December 21 - 2006

" Copyright © RavensgroveBefana, also known in the non Italian name as Befanta, is the benevolent Italian Witch Fairy who flies her broomstick, on the Twelfth Night of the holiday season, to come down chimneys and bring presents to children. Befana can be found thought history for centuri..."

La Befana

Copyright © Ravensgrove

Befana, also known in the non Italian name as Befanta, is the benevolent Italian Witch Fairy who flies her broomstick, on the Twelfth Night of the holiday season, to come down chimneys and bring presents to children. Befana can be found thought history for centuries. She is believed to be associated with the Goddess Hekate.In a little village high atop a hill, in Via della Padella; number 2 to be precise, an old lady, part fairy part witch, passes the entire year in the company of her grotesque assistants; (the Befanucci) preparing coal, making sweets and toys and darning old stockings and socks. These are all to be distributed to children on Rome's magickal night of nights, between the5th and 6th of January.

This seems the longest night of all. Every child is in awe of 'La Befana', a sentiment tinged with love and fear. Dressed in black and larger then life, she comes, entering the houses by sliding down the chimney, leaving her presents for the children: coal for the bad boys and girls and sweets and candies for the good ones. The children prepare a plate of soft ricotta cheese for her; for everyone knows that she doesn't have many good teeth left. In origin this character is even older than Babbo Natale; Santo Natale, Father Christmas or Santa Claus. Her festival has usurped an ancient pagan feast celebrated on the Magic Night, the 6th day of the New Year, chosen by ancient Eastern astronomers according to their complicated calculations. Epiphany, later called Twelfth Night by Christianity, was therefore, pagan inorigin. Therefore, Befana pre-dates her elfin counterpart, Santa, by a few thousand years. It was much later when the story was changed to be associated with the life of Christ. So strong was the remembrance of things past that two other events in Jesus' life were calculated to have taken place on this day: His Baptism and the Wedding at Cana. Indeed until the forth century Christmas itself was celebrated on 6 January. Until the end of last century La Befana could be found in Piazza Sant'Eustachio or in Piazza dei Cappellari where the annual Christmas fair with cribs and toys took place. Then, because of the fashion for crinolines and large hoop skirts, the fair was moved to Piazza Navona, where it is still today. This takes the place of the four-hundred years-old spices market which had to be moved over to Campo de'Fiori.

Befina ......


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