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Epiphany feast: between legend and traditions

Travel in Italy


The Epiphany is a Christian feast celebrated on the 6th of January that commemorates the arrival of the three Kings to the place where baby Jesus was born.

The traditionally Epiphany Feast marks the end of the Christmas Holidays, hence the popular saying: “L’Epifania, tutte le feste porta via!”, which means that the Epiphany carries away all of the Holidays. The Christmas trees, lights and decorations get taken down and the new working year officially begins!

It’s a very fun day, especially for kids. Let’s explore some of the most popular traditions and ways to celebrate the Epiphany and the legend behind them!

The Befana, Italy's beloved witch

A bit like Santa Claus, the Befana is a Christmas character that is associated with the day of the Epiphany. She’s a witch that travels on a broomstick the night between the 5th and 6th of January all through Italy. Her mission is to bring all kinds of sweets to nice kids and a bucket full of edible coal (made of sugar) to the ones that were not so good throughout the year!

Before the tradition of exchanging and opening gifts got taken over by the legend of Santa Claus and the morning of Christmas day, the day of the Epiphany actually had the job of bringing kids presents. Nowadays, as said before, the Befana gives out candy and sweet treats.
Before going to sleep, kids leave out their personal Epiphany Stocking, usually on the handle of their bedroom door or on the chimney - when their house has one - and wake up in the morning to find the stocking full of sweet treats that they enjoy! Is there a best way to wake up?

Foods to try on the Epiphany Feast

Great food is always a big part of Italian culture and the Epiphany is definitely no exception!
Apart from all the sweet treats that you will be surrounded with on this day, here are some of the most popular desserts that Italians eat on the 6th of January in the Epiphany Feast:

  • Struffoli: a typical dessert from the region Campania that consists of small pieces of pastry, fried and savored with honey;
  • Cavallucci di Siena: soft biscuits, popular in the region Tuscany, especially in Siena;
  • Ancini: crumbly biscuits that are usually softened by dipping them in a cup of milk, typical of Liguria;
  • Cammelli di pasta sfoglia: a dessert from the region Lombardia that consists of puff pastry shaped like small camels;

Feast of Epiphany and the legend of the three kings

As mentioned before, according to the Western Christian Church, the Epiphany celebrates the arrival of the Three Kings (Gaspar, Melchior and Balthasar) to the crib of baby Jesus after he was born in Bethlehem.

This scene is represented in many nativity scenes, called presepi, all through Italy with many exhibitions of handmade products by very talented artisans like the 100 Presepi in the Vatican in Rome.
It’s also a religious tradition to attend the mass on this day that, according to Christians, marks the revelation of God, incarnated as his son, Jesus Christ, to humanity.


Holidays of Christmas and Epiphany: magical time to visit Italy

The Holidays are surely a fantastic time to visit Italy; the atmosphere generated by the Christmas trees, lights and decorations, the amazing experiences you can have just by walking through the streets filled with Christmas markets, attractions and activities and more than anything the joy and love you can feel in the air will definitely fill your heart with happiness.

Come to Italy and witness the magic of the holidays with your own eyes!

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