Epiphany: history, legends and traditions
7 January 2020

Epiphany: history, legends and traditions

The closing party

Epiphany takes all parties away!” The 6th of January is the last holiday of the long Christmas period, from the following day the everyday life begins, you go back to work or school and you always start your diet after the big Christmas and New Year’s Eve eating! Today we tell you the story of this holiday, the legends and traditions connected to it.

a "Befana" on a broom, symbol of Epiphany
The “befana” symbol of Epiphany

Epiphany for Christians

In Greek the term “epiphàneia” means “revelation” or “apparition“: in fact the Epiphany is the Christian feast that celebrates the revelation of God to men in his Son and the full name is Epiphany of the Lord. In fact, Epiphany celebrates the first manifestation of Jesus to humanity with the visit of the Magi, Melchior, Gaspar and Balthazar, who bring gifts as a sign of adoration: gold in homage to his kingship, incense for his divinity and myrrh for his future redemptive suffering.
The Epiphany is accompanied by various symbols and traditions among which we certainly remember the Comet Star, which guides the Magi to the hut in Bethlehem; the exchange of presents and gifts given to children.

The Epiphany and the “Befana”

A little old lady with a long nose and pointed chin, dressed in rags and walking around on a broom: this is the common image of the Befana, an ugly but good old lady who brings gifts to children on the night between January 5 and 6. Flying on the broom between the roofs of the houses she goes down the chimneys to fill the stockings that the children leave hanging in the house with gifts: in exchange the children leave a plate with food for the old lady. The next day the plate will be empty, the children who have been good during the year will find the gifts, while the less good ones will have to be satisfied with coal!

The Befana in the past was the representation of the past year: the old year, like the Befana, that goes away leaving some auspicious gifts for the year that begins. According to a 12th century legend, the Befana was an old lady to whom the Three Kings, on their way to Bethlehem, asked directions; the old lady gave the information requested but refused to follow them to worship Jesus. As soon as the Magi left, however, the old woman regretted her decision and went out of the house to look for them with a basket full of sweets. However, the search was unlucky and knocking on every door the old woman left a gift to every child she met in the hope that it was Jesus. And it has always been like that.

Surely each of you will have prepared a sock with gifts or sweets for your children, but let’s not forget that being a day of celebration is always a good opportunity to spend a day with your family, maybe taking advantage of it for a nice tour on Mount Etna or discovering a city that you have not yet had the opportunity to know. Today we recommend the tour of Palermo and Cefalù, two Sicilian jewels that deserve to be known!
Alternatively book a tour on Mount Etna with our partner Etna Experience to spend January 6th on the highest active volcano in Europe!

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