As she has done for almost a thousand years if not longer, tonight La Befana will mount her broomstick and fly from house to house in Italy and in Italian households all over the world. The good will be, justly, rewarded with sweets, fruits and perhaps a small gift; the bad will reap the rewards of their badness - a lump of coal or in some households a turnip.
Given the onslaught of Halloween - a holiday unknown in Italy until a decade ago - and the appearance of Babo Natale (Santa Claus) there is a chance that this lovely and age old tradition will disappear before the forces of marketing. However this little vignette on YouTube from Walks of Italy gives me some assurance that she will not go the way of the zampognari or shepherds who would come down from the mountains and serenade Romans with the bagpipe carols. Let's hope that when Beatrice wakes up tomorrow there will be both "sweet carbone" and an extra treat for being a good girl and sharing her traditions with us.
I've written extensively in the past about the stories - there are several versions of her history - and celebration of La Befana. As I said last year each story enriches both the old lady and the traditions surrounding her. If you haven't read them before do take a look; if you have, well a second look does not harm.
January 2008 - An Italian Christmas Tradition - La Befana
January 2009 - Ephipania II
January 2011 - Viva La Befana! La Befana!
January 2012 - The Flight of La Befana
To all my loved ones in Italy - don't forget a glass of warming wine and a biscotti will help the old lady on her way in the cold night. And my hope is that when you wake in the morning La Befana will have left your stockings full of good things and for that once or twice that you just may have been less than good a lump of carbonne but like Beatrice carbonne dolci to sweeten the experience.
Viva la Befana! Viva!
December 5 - 1974: Warmest reliably measured temperature in Antarctica of +59 °F (+15 °C) recorded at Vanda Station.