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East Meets West A kind of marriage between Asia and Europe as my life yo-yo's between the two this year! It's about the contrasts and similarities and especially the Art, Culture and Food.

So what night is it???

ITALY | Monday, 7 January 2013 | Views [334]

Gosh, Italy can be confusing!

If I had been dropped here on Saturday night (the 5th) I wouldn't have had a clue what month, let alone what day it was.

There were stockings hanging up ready to be filled (Christmas Eve?) and excited children dressed up as witches (Halloween?) and in the shops lots of goodies with pictures of this old woman on a broomstick and everywhere could be heard Gianni Morandi singing 'Trullala Trullala " (the only bit I could decipher at first.) Everyone also seemed very keen to get hold of some coal . (New Years Eve ?)

So what was the occasion? Italy's take on the Eve of Epiphany! A festival they call "La Befana".

It would appear that La Befana is celebrated in true Italian style with lots of excitement, parades, feasting, concerts and even bonfires in every town and village right across Italy. Legend has it that an old woman dressed in black and riding a broomstick visits all the children and leaves candies or presents for the good ones and coal for the bad ones. She enters down the chimney, Santa Claus style and brushes the house before she leaves thus clearing away all the year's problems. (A flavour of Chinese New Year here!)

Again, in true Italian style, a National Holiday followed and families are together doing what they love ..... attending parades and FEASTING! I do love these people! They really know how to let go and enjoy themselves but they do it with such panache! AND without causing any offence to anyone else. No drunken louts. No riots. I reckon the police have a great time. They just need to join in the fun!

There seems to be two conflicting stories about who Befana actually was but I will tell you the one that seems the most popular and that I like best.

There was once an old woman who was very particular about housework . Following the birth of Christ the three Kings (Wise Men) came to her village and asked directions to the stable but Befana didn't know. They invited her to join them in their quest to find the baby Jesus but Befana declined saying that she had too much housework to do. Later she changed her mind and went after them. Unfortunately she never found them or the stable and continues her search leaving presents for all the children she finds, just in case they are Jesus. So sweet! Take a look at this video on YouTube: http://youtu.be/MSj0fUlla64 >;The song is great! Listen to it here on YouTube! Sorry .. I'm not translating.... Much too long. Just enjoy! We popped into Assisi today to see what was happening. Assisi is wonderful even without a Festa but today lots of stalls selling all manner of local produce lined the Main Street and a witch .... Or could it be La Befana? ..... was giving out gifts to the children. The atmosphere was amazing!

At 15 .00 the legend was given rather n a modern twist as we turned our gaze to the skies to see La Bafana paragliding down from heaven from Monte Subasio!

La Befana is certainly very athletic! Look what she did in 2010 ...... http://youtu.be/VZrWm0IVezE

Could only happen in Italy!

(If you want to learn more about the celebrations click on the link below: )

http://travelumbria.blogspot.co.uk/2012/01/epiphany-in-umbria.html?m=1

For those of you who are not from Scotland or the North of England and are wondering what on earth coal has to do with New Year. Well, in those Northern climes people go first footing (visiting) on New Years Eve and they always carry a bottle of Whisky, some Shortbread and a piece of coal. The Whisky is for obvious reasons. The shortbread symbolised no shortage of food and the coal for warmth.

I've always loved New Year's Eve. We didn't go First Footing but we always had lots of friends round, ate lots of food and played games. At five minutes to midnight another important tradition took place. A dark haired man (usually my dad) was pushed out of the back door with the coal, shortbread and Whisky, to stand shivering till the bells chimed midnight and then he was allowed in through the front door. This symbolising the taking out the old year and its troubles and bringing in a healthy and prosperous New Year. It had to be a dark haired man because going back to Viking days if a blonde man arrived on your doorstep it could only mean trouble!!!

Tags: assisi, celebrations, children, epiphany, witches

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Italy has SO many stray cats, this little kitten had found a home in the restaurant La Cantina in Castiglione del lago.

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