Italian traditions: 1st of January, “La Befana” and best wishes to our readers for 2016!

La Befana
La Befana

The New Year and Epiphany are rich in festivities in Italy, in particular “La Befana”, going back to century old traditions: of course exchanges of wishes, (we present ours to our readers!), but also meals with lentils and sausages on January 1st and celebration of “La Befana”, a good witch who brings candy and chocolate to good children on January 6th.

At New Year, the most common tradition in Italy is to eat lentils, the shape of which recalls that of coins. To eat lentils is therefore supposed to bring abundance, prosperity and money. Another traditional dish going with the lentils is the “Cotechino” or the “Zampone” (cooked sausages). As a matter of fact, the pig that was usually slaughtered on the occasion of New Year celebrations which was also a symbol of a plentiful and prosperous year.
The feast of the Epiphany on January 6 is a holiday in Italy (you will not receive mail from Villa le Barone that day!). Since most ancient times Italians celebrate “La Befana”, an old benevolent witch flying on a broom and carrying on her back a bag full of candy and gifts, oranges, sometimes vegetables like carrots or turnips and also some bits of charcoal.

Villa le Barone  Winter  2012
Villa le Barone Winter 2012

The Befana will come in each house, preferably through the chimney, during the night of 5 th to 6th of January and will fill the socks that children hang near the window or the chimney, with sweets and chocolates for those who have been kind, or bits of harrcoal for the others (today black licorice). Formerly people were warming the room where the old witch was to come and laid on the table some fruit and wine, to invite her to remain as long as possible. They also put hay on the threshold of the house for her donkey.
Best wishes for a very beautiful and happy 2016 to all the readers of this magazine and their friends and may La Befana fill your socks only with pleasant goodies!