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Archive for the ‘Festivals’ Category

Even though I might be considered too old, I still await eagerly for the 6th January to arrive, as La Befana has been the night before and on many occasions has left me with a bottle of nice red wine and dark chocolate, only because I’ve been good the past year!!

What you might ask is La Befana, well she is very similar to Santa Clause. Arrives the night of the 5th January, and the children or adults like me, wake up in the morning to find presents (if you have been good) or coal (if you have been bad) in their stockings/socks that they/we have left out the night before.

La Befana – 6th January is celebrated throughout all of Italy and has become a national icon. In the regions of Le Marche, Umbria and Lazio her figure is associated with the Papal States, where the Ephipany is held with the upmost importance.

In Italian folklore La Befana is usually portrayed as an old lady riding a broomstick (like a witch) through the air wearing a black shawl and is covered in soot because she enters the children’s houses through the chimney, who delivers gifts to children throughout Italy on Ephipany Eve (5th January) to fill their socks with sweets and presents if they are good or a lump of coal “carbone”, onions or garlic or dark sweets made to look like coal if they are bad. Being a good housekeeper she will sweep the floor before she leaves, which is now associated with the taking down of all the Christmas decorations. And the children will leave out a small glass of wine and a plate of food.

Urbania (which is just down the road from Piandimeleto) in Le Marche is said to be her official home, where the national La Befana festival is held each year, usually from 2nd to 6th January. The post office also has a mail box reserved for letters addressed to La Befana.

How did La Befana originate – note this is one of many stories;

According to Christian legend had it that Befana was approached by the biblical magi, also known as the Three Wise Men a few days before the birth of the baby Jesus. They asked for directions to where the Son of God was, as they had seen his star in the sky, but she did not know. She provided them with shelter for a night, as she was considered the best housekeeper in the village, with the most pleasant home. The magi invited her to join them on the journey to find the baby Jesus, but she declined, stating she was too busy with her housework.

Later, La Befana had a change of heart, and tried to search out the magi and Jesus. That night she was not able to find them, so to this day, La Befana is searching for the little baby that is why she leaves all the good children toys and sweets (“caramelle”) or fruit, while the bad children get coal (“carbone”), onions or garlic.

La Befana - 6th January

Auguri a tutti! Della Befana

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Panettone

Panettone- Christmas bread- cake from Milan, is a typical dome-shaped cake made with flour, yeast, eggs, butter, sugar, sultanas and mixed candied fruit. The panettone has an ancestor large and round, rich with fruit, raisins, candied fruit, spices and honey which was used in christian rituals (the women to help with the rising traced a cross with the wedding ring in the dough).

The Panettone is said to originate from Milan and from the court of Ludovico il Moro, It was the evening of Christmas, while everyone was committed to serving the numerous courses of Christmas dinner, left alone to monitor the oven was Toni, the youngest and bumbling servant.

“Watch the buns that are baking”, barked the head baker to Toni. But Toni who was tired became sleepy from the warmth of the oven, dozed off. After a few minutes he woke up and pouring out of the oven was smoke.

“Dear me, what a mess!” Toni was desperate tearing his hair from his head. Thinking what to do now? How to fix it? Fortunately on the wooden counter was still a bit of bread dough. Without wasting time, Toni grabbed the dough, mixed in eggs & butter. Then to sweeten it he added, honey, candied fruit, raisins and dried fruit. Finally he put the dough in the oven.

“ Where are the buns?” rang the voice of the head baker. “They are all burnt” said Toni, “but we can serve this bread-cake that I’ve just prepared.”

The head baker agreed to take the improvised dish to the table of the lords of Milan, who enjoyed it immensely. Since then, the “pane di Toni” was always requested for Christmas dinner.

Panettone is now one of the most popular Christmas cakes, in the early 20th century, two enterprising Milanese bakers began to produce panettone in large quantities to the rest of Italy (Motta & Alemagna). In 1919, Angelo Motta who revolutionised the traditional panettone by giving its tall domed shape by making the dough rise three times, or almost 20 hours, before cooking, giving it its now-familiar light texture.

Panettone

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