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Celebrating “La Befana” Cuban Style

January 9, 2014

So I’m back home after a 17-week journey in Italy and it feels so good! Since I was unable to celebrate Thanksgiving or Christmas with my family, we decided to do a post-Christmas/Epiphany. If you are unaware, the Epiphany is January 6th  and it is the official last day of the Christmas Season and comes 12 days after Christmas (hence the song “The Twelve Days of Christmas”). Traditionally, it is the day that the Three Kings (or Magi) came to visit baby Jesus; although most Americans don’t celebrate it or have no idea it exists.

NGA-Juan de Flandes, Adoration of the Magi, 1508-1519-detail

Juan de Flandes, Adoration of the Magi, 1508-1519 from the National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.

Although both Hispanics and Italians celebrate the Epiphany, they do it in different ways. For Hispanics, on January 6th kids leave our straw for the camels and receive small gifts left for them by the Three Kings and Italians have gifts left for them by “La Befana.” She is a witch who brings gifts for children (warts, broom, hat and all).

Here’s a brief Befana story via Wikipedia: on the way to baby Jesus the Three Kings got lost (guess it was a cloudy night and they couldn’t see the stars?) and so they stopped by La Befana’s house for rest and directions. The next morning they asked her to go with them to worship baby Jesus but she said no because she had too much housework (very old school Italian lol). Later, she regretted her decision and put some gifts in her basket and went out but she also got lost, so she stopped at every house to drop off gifts, still looking for baby Jesus.

My family decided to host a family gathering Sunday, January 5th, as a pre-Epiphany/post-Christmas get together. And since my mom loves having themes to everything, she split the table half Thanksgiving, half Christmas, decorations and food on their respective sides. It was magical!


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