La Befana - the Italian Witch of Epiphany

On the Twelfth day of Christmas.....  came the Witch!
It's Epiphany today - the 12th night of Christmas.  In Italy on Epifania, it's the night the witch flies. She's called La Befana and she brings sweets to good children and leaves charcoal for the naughty ones!  In most of the villages they still have a Befana ceremony, a small party for the children, and they sing the Befana song, which has a haunting, eastern european sound to it.  Much of it has to be pagan in origin, perhaps Baba Yaga fused with the three kings who came on the 6th of Jan bearing gifts.

Today, in Pieve, the little village below us, the Befana came with two of her friends and two ponies loaded with gifts in wicker panniers.  The three witches danced and handed out biscuits, oranges and sweets to the children.

The Befana choir and musicians
The village choir and church musicians played the Befana tune on the steps of the church.

It was all great fun, but marks the end of Christmas.  They've had a competition in town to see who could decorate the best tree with rubbish.  The winner was beautifully hung with bells and streamers made from blue and white plastic bottles, all painted intricately in blue, white and silver.  Very pretty, and a good idea for next year!

Tonight at 3am this particular witch is on a Ryanair flight to London, then on about 5 trains to the north of England, for Norman Nicholson's 100th birthday party in Carlisle Library.  The weather forecast is terrible over there - hope I make it in time!


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