L’Epifania tutte le feste si porta via: one more family meal, a witch and back to work

by Laura Gray on January 6, 2019


Mercifully the eating festival that started on 24th December is nearly over and we can finally take down the Christmas tree and dismantle the nativity scene complete with mossy hillocks that the cat has been sleeping in (and not just sleeping in, unfortunately).

The 6th of January is the Epiphany, the day La Befana is celebrated in Italy.

Legend has it that La Befana is an old crone who delivers sweets on the night between 5 and 6 January, going down chimneys and filling stockings (something that Father Christmas DOESN’T DO IN ITALY). As a myth she has her roots in pagan and/or Roman traditions, later conflated with Christian tradition. Apparently the whole Befana business was initially limited to central Italy but its spread was encouraged during fascism as part of the “Romanisation” of the whole country. So either she’s commemorating the gifts the Magi brought to Jesus, or she’s Mussolini’s vision of national unity, or a representation of the old year, appearing on the winter solstice, and inaugurating the new year with presents…. Whichever way it’s a good deal for children who get their last dose of tooth-rot and magic.

La Befana offers a quick cross-dressing moment for young men all over Italy. In Montalcino’s central square there will be four or five of them, shinning up and down the clock tower on pulleys at 5.30 pm today (details here). They will be throwing sweets at over-excited children, wearing fake noses, petticoats with holes in them and brandishing broomsticks. It’s quite a sight. They are all fire-fighters and strapping men but they will be unrecognisable even to their own daughters.

La Befana signals the end of the Christmas break, the fizzling out of the holidays and that life is about to crank back into action. It’s a national holiday and another family meal (lasagne). Nearly all offices and businesses will only be fully operational after La Befana, school starts back on the 7th and everyone comes to terms with being in 2019.

In Montalcino it’s an important date since producers can pick up the DOCG strips that certify Brunello after the 6th January…. Along with Conti Costanti and Biondi Santi we are not releasing a 2014 Brunello but this is the vintage that is about to make its debut in Montalcino and all over the world.

Bring on the sweeties and the drag witches! I can’t wait to get going.

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