The Epiphany, or “Befana” in Italian, greets the Christmas Holidays and marks the beginning of Carnival. This particular event has old origins and it is of easy intuition considering the etymology of the word that descended from the ancient Greek, in particular from the verb ἐπιφαίνω, “epifàino” (that it means “to be manifested”), from the feminine noun ἐπιφάνεια, “epifàneia” (manifestation, apparition, divine presence). However, this celebration has is roots also in Pagan and pre-Christian roots. For this reason, it is a truly complex holiday that is representative of the place where it is celebrated.
In ancient times, in fact, the twelfth night after Christmas, after the Winter Solstice; the celebration of the death and rebirth of “Nature”, personified through the pagan figure of Mother Nature who had expended all her energy during the year, she appears in the form of an old and benevolent witch, who flies across the sky with a broom. Once she was dried, Mother Nature was ready to be burned and reborn from her ashes as a new “Nature”. However, before that, she used to give away little gifts and sweets to everyone, so that they could plant the seeds that will bear new crops during the following year.
The holiday, after the onset of Catholicism, got a new meaning, in addition to the one described above. During the same day, the commemoration of the visit of the Three Kings to baby Jesus in Bethlehem is also celebrated. The Three Kings, thanks to the Star of Bethlehem’s appearance, were able to reach the cave where Mary and Joseph’s son was hosted. To celebrate the happy event, Gaspar, Melchior and Balthazar, (the Three Kings’ names), honored the new born with gold, incense and myrrh.
This custom of gift giving has been passed down from generation to generation and tonight this sweet little old woman will be working to bring gifts and sweets, inside the famous sock, especially to the children who have been good during the year. Those who haven’t will find their stockings filled with coal… the sugary one of course!
Hopefully, you’ve been good this year?