“La Befana” always comes at night

“La Befana vien di notte
con le scarpe tutte rotte
con le toppe alla sottana:
Viva, viva la Befana!”

 

(“Old Befana comes by night 
with her shoes from first twilight 
with some patches on her skirt 
Giving charcoal to naughty kids”)


The “Befana” traditionally comes the night of between the 5th and 6th of January. She is that old scary witch, who flies on a broom to reward with candies the children who have been good and punish the naughty ones giving them only just charcoal – well, sugar charcoal -. She usually leaves the gifts in the old sock, children leave hanging near their beds. Just like Santa, when we were kids, we used to stay awake till late, as we wanted to catch a glimpse of the horrible sinister woman, till exhausted, we fell asleep and so our parents could fill our socks.

Of course the morning we looked forward to seeing our treats and woke up early. Well, you have to know that this is exactly what I keep doing these days: I go to bed late at night and wake up early in the morning in all excitement to look for my surprise. Why? At my age am I still hoping to receive my deserved candies -as I know I’ve been extremely good and patient this year-? Nope. The treat I seek every day is named DPCM:  the Decree of the President of the Council of Ministers. Such decrees are usually issued every couple of weeks, but in between, there the amendments of the amendments of the last DPCM which update the DPCM before. Our ministers are in the strange habit of meeting at night and only when it is dawn, like the Befana, they spread their treats. That’s why every morning as soon as I wake up, I grab my sock, sorry, my smartphone and if I see 276 WhatsApp messages, I understand before reading them that the treat has arrived.

To cut a long story short, till last night, we, high school teachers didn’t know when, if, how we would go back to school. During those days of uncertainties, we found ourselves doing the most unbelievable actions like: joining remote meetings during festivities and even asking form more, planning the most disruptive demonstrations and dropping the most disruptive demonstrations, fighting over new schedules according the guidelines of the last DPCM to find out that it was all eventually useless. We could have spent all this time, reading, cooking, redecorating, writing and whatever more, as this morning the Befana broke with the news that it is still unsafe for high school students to be in presence, event 50% presence.

Well, “you may go to sleep now, Tink”, I guess you  would think. Not exactly, as there is the issue of the traffic light. Yes, the traffic light, that stuff with yellow, green and red lights. Yesterday night’s decision is only temporary: till next Monday. Now it is to be decided, what colour the 20 Italian regions are, according to the Covid data from the scientific technical committee. GREEN means GO: go to school, work, normal life; YELLOW/ORANGE, well, I know that abroad yellow means slow down and stop, but for us yellow sounds more like go as fast as you can, before it turns RED, hence, if we are in a yellow zone we may go back to school, normal life  etc. yet, with some restrictions, so we have to do quickly what is needed as it might turn RED in a second. When you live in a RED area, well, you’d better subscribe Netflix as you are locked in.

Hence, here we are, our destiny will be determined by a color and then another color till this Covid question will come to an end and we could go back to normal. What a treat that  would be, my dear Befana.

On Witches and Socks

According to a Christian legend, while the Three Wise Men were on their way to Bethlehem to bring gifts to the Infant Jesus, they bumped into a very old woman and asked her if she knew were the Son of God was, as they seemed to be quite disoriented. Unfortunately she didn’t know. Nevertheless, she offered them accommodation for a night, after all, she was the best housekeeper in the village, with the most comfortable home. The following day, the Three Magi tried to convince the old lady to join them to the visit to the baby Jesus, but despite their insistence, she refused, as did not feel like leaving the house, she was too busy with her housework after all.

Yet, very soon she repented for not having gone with them. She quickly prepared a basket of sweets and left the house in search for the Three Wise Men, but in vain. She stopped at every house she found along the way, giving candies to the children she met, in the hope that one of them was the baby Jesus. Since then, she goes around the world, giving presents to all children, so that she might be forgiven.The good ones will have toys, candies or fruit, while the bad ones get only coal, onions or garlic. That’s why it is tradition here in Italy to leave empty socks next to beds of children the night of the Epiphany, so that the old lady, that is actually called Befana, may fill them with presents. Befana’s iconography is a little scary, however, as she wears a dark and wide skirt, an apron with pockets, a shawl, a handkerchief or broad black hat on his head, a pair of worn slippers, all enlivened by numerous colored patches and she travels around the world flying on a broom.

🤔🤔🤔

Wait, wait, wait, but if Jesus was not born on Christmas day, even the date of his revelation to the Magi cannot be that certain. Why was it fixed on the 6th of January? Even in this case a Christian tradition actually overlapped a pagan one. We have go back to Roman Mithraic rites, again. If you remember, we have already stated that originally on the 25 th of December the winter solstice was celebrated along with Mithras, the Sol Invictus. On the twelfth night after the winter solstice, that is the day of the Epiphany, the death and rebirth of nature through Mother Nature was solemnized. But why after 12 days? Because the twelve days represented the twelve months of the years, therefore, the entire natural cycle. It seems that on those days, female figures flew over the cultivated fields, to propitiate the fertility of future crops, hence the myth of the “flying” figure, the so-called Befana.

Now, I cannot but go and look for a capacious sock, and advice you to do the same, you’ll never know.😜

“The Befana comes by night
With her shoes all tattered and torn
She comes dressed in the Roman way
Long live the Befana!”