National Epiphany Festival
Long live the Epiphany!
Children all over the world look forward to the night between January 5 and 6. Many of them, before going to bed on the magical night, prepare some hay for the camels of the Three Kings who, after bringing gifts to the baby Jesus, visit the homes of good children, leaving some nice thoughts for them as well. Doesn't sound very familiar, does it? Of course it doesn't! In our memories as children, before going to sleep we used to leave some people a cup of coffee, some peanuts, some tangerines and everything else in our imagination that would please the Befana, the nice old lady who steals the show from the Magi in Italy.
In some areas this tradition is much stronger than in others. Urbania is a beautiful example of this : thanks to a sense of belonging to the area, pride in one's roots and the commitment of volunteers, here in ancient Casteldurante we have created one of the most representative events in the Marche region. Urbania itself, in fact, is the town chosen by Befana as Home! From January 4 to 6, the historic center is transformed with the colors, scents, notes and cheer of the community where the Befana and her helpers organize the party that closes the Christmas season and inaugurates the new year of events in the Marche region.
Urbania and the Befana
The Befana is an integral part of the tradition of our area, think that she is more famous here than Santa Claus! In the past, families would gather around the hearth to wait all together for the sweet little old lady who brought tangerines and candy to the good children and coal and ashes to the bad ones. Slowly, over time, this tradition came out of the houses to spill into the streets of downtown and involve the whole population, until it turned into a big, colorful and joyful celebration dedicated not only to children but also to those adults who never stopped dreaming.
But who is she really?
It is no coincidence that she arrives on the same night dedicated to the Three Wise Men: the Befana can be traced back to one of the pre-Christian female deities linked to the earth and rebirth. With the arrival of Christianity she became associated with the figure of an old woman who first refused her help to the Wise Men who wanted to reach the Bethlehem grotto and then, regretting her choice, decided to visit the Child herself. Arriving too late, she decides to travel the world giving away the toys and sweets she created in the hope that one of those children will be Jesus himself. Today this tradition is reflected in a Befana seen as a peppy grandmother who on the night of January 5-6 visits all the children of the world bringing gifts or coal! Because she wears very colorful clothes full of patches and travels on a broomstick, she is often confused with a witch. In reality, the Befana is a somewhat magical but certainly not evil creature who loves to have fun in company, so much so that when January 6 approaches, little letters go out from Urbania everywhere to summon all the Befane-Assistants scattered around the world who promptly set out to join the party.
An unsurpassed hostess
Why peppy? Oh, just because she creates the stockings for the children, the toys with which she fills them, she also prepares the coal for those who have been a bit naughty, not to mention that then, in a single night, she arrives in all homes, none excluded. And if all this still seems like little to you, come to Urbania during her festival, you will find her every afternoon of intent on descending from the bell tower of the municipality as if nothing was wrong, always cheerful and smiling. She and her helpers also allow us to get to know her a little closer by opening the doors of the Befana House! This is where much of the magic happens, with the stocking loom, the cauldron and a few little details about her life. Children are always enchanted, but adults also gladly wait their turn to enter!
A dash of magic even in difficult times
The Epiphany Festival is a time of joy, warmth, sharing, friendship and magic that Durantine people really cherish. It is exciting to participate in an event prepared and experienced with so much care and love. Even in a time like the one marked by the Covid emergency, the magic doesn't stop: it may not be possible to all get together, but the Befana always finds a way to be there for us, even if it's some online event... we'll see some great things!
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