La Befana Takes Flight!
Growing up, all our Christmas decorations stayed up through the first week of January. Honestly, I didn’t give it much thought. I figured it was just to enjoy through New Year’s Day and then we would all take the decorations off the tree for another year. I vaguely remember hearing something about “Little Christmas,” but nothing specific.
In the last few years, it has all come together. I learned what I “sort of” heard about when I was little.
The Feast of the Epiphany
January 6th is 12 days after Christmas, when Catholics, and especially Italians, celebrate the Feast of the Epiphany; the day the Three Wise Men, also known as the Magi, find the baby Jesus after their search under the North Star.
As Christians, we all learned of the birth of Jesus. It is central to our Faith. While we were all taught about The Epiphany, chances are when you were a child it kind of fell to the back of your brain. After all, you were already back to school after Christmas break was over. The tree would come down and presents would be put away. You felt kind of sad to see all the magic of Christmas get packed away for another year. In reality though, The Epiphany is just as important as the birth of Jesus Christ in our Faith.
According to Italian legend, the Three Wise Men approached a friendly woman and asked her to help them find the newborn Savior. She did not know where He was, but she welcomed them in for the night, since they had such a long journey ahead. She was always cleaning and sweeping her home, so she was easily able to accommodate her unexpected guests.
The next day, before they continued on their search, they asked the woman who was so kind to join them on their journey to find the newborn King. She turned them down, and explained she had too much housework to come along.
Shortly after they left, she changed her mind and set out to catch up with the Three Wise Men in their search for Jesus. Unfortunately, she never found them, so to this day she goes out on her broom, looking for the baby Jesus.
She enters every home in Italy with the hope of seeing the Savior. When she doesn’t find Him, she still leaves behind small toys or candy for the children.
While I never heard the story of La Befana when I was young, I am very thankful I know it now.
L’Epifania tutte le feste le porta via