Wednesday, January 1, 2014

The Legend of Befana - Italian folklore

In Italian folklore, Befana is an old woman (or friendly old witch) who delivers gifts to children on Epiphany Eve (January 5).
The name Befana is thought to derive from the Feast of Epiphany -  "La Festa dell'Epifania".
According to folklore Befana visits all the children of Italy on the eve of the Feast of the Epiphany to deliver gifts - candy, if they have been good, or coal if they have been bad.
Befana is usually portrayed as an old lady or witch riding a broomstick. She is covered in soot because she enters the children's houses down the chimney.

In Christian legend, Befana was approached by the Three Wise Men a few days before the birth of the Infant Jesus. They asked for directions, as they were following his star in the sky, but she did not know where to send them. Instead she offered them a bed for the night. The next day, as gratitude for her hospitality, they invited her to join them on their journey, but she declined as she had too much housework to do. She later regretted this and set out on her own to find them and the baby Jesus, but was unable to. So to this day, the legend says, she is still searching and travels the night sky on her broomstick, visiting children on the way, delivering gifts, in the hope of finding the baby Jesus

Christmas and New Year on Lake Como

Winter may not be the most obvious time to visit Lake Como. But if you already own a holiday home here, it makes perfect sense to make the most of it out of season as well.

Most villages have special events over the festive season and all are decorated beautifully from early December onwards.

Menaggio has a special Christmas market on the last Saturday before Xmas. 

Como town has a daily Christmas market in Piazza Cavour and a weekly one in Piazza San Fedele. The Duomo is always lit up with a stunning display and there are special church services during the festive season.

The popular lakeside village of Argegno on New Year's day has a live advent scene, where various biblical and nativity scenes are acted out throughout the village. 
A procession starts at the church at 2.30 and is led by a brass band through the streets. This year (January 1st  2014), they acted out scenes starting with the annunciation and Archangel Gabriel, continuing with various scenes from the life of Christ acted out by freezing locals and ending with the last supper and the crucifixion. 

The event ends back outside the church where free mulled wine and panettone is served to everybody.

It's well worth visit, whether you are religious or not - the amount of effort and planning put into this annual event by the local villagers and the church is simply amazing. 

Winter is also a good time to come looking for property on Lake Como - the winter sun is just as beautiful as the summer sun. You can still sit in the sun and drink your cappucino, with a jacket and scarf. Temperatures can dip as low as zero at night and you sometimes get snow. It never lasts very long, as it disappears as soon as the sun comes out again. 

If you are coming looking for a holiday home on Lake Como, expect estate agents to be closed between around 24th December and 6th January as Befana is the eve of January 5th. Or instead call a local Property Finder, to fix your appointments for you in advance so that you can get the most out of your vacation time and not have to rely on the opening hours of estate agents .

(Befana is an old woman who delivers gifts to children throughout Italy on Epiphany Eve (the night of January 5) in a similar way To Santa Claus at Christmas, so if you are an Italian, you get 2 lots of presents!)

See more on the legend of Befana.