Sunday, 6 January 2013

Pagan Customs in Capezzano

Last night was Twelfth Night - not celebrated much in northern europe apart from being the night everyone takes down their Christmas decorations.  Oh, and a play by Shakespeare! But at one time Twelfth Night was celebrated more than Christmas or New Year.  It has a very, very old history - the Romans called it Saturnalia and it was a bit of a pagan riot.

In this area of Italy it's still a Festa and it's the night that La Befana, the witch, flies abroad and brings a stocking full of gifts to good children - sticks or ashes to the bad, a bit like Santa Claus.  La Befana may be the modern incarnation of an old goddess called Strina, who was possibly called something else by the Etruscans.
La Befana and her attendants visiting a house.
 In our village they have a house to house procession - one of the old ladies of the village dresses up as La Befana and is accompanied round the village by attendants and the town band.  There's much laughter and drinking of hot punch, before collecting in a courtyard to sing the 'Befana' song.

La Befana vien di notte,
con le scarpe tutte rotte,
ai bambini piccolini, lascia tanti cioccolatini
ai bambini cativoni, lascia cenere e carboni.

Singing in the courtyard.
 These days some Christian stories have become mixed with the traditional ones and La Befana is followed by the Three Kings from the nativity story, but there's no crib.


Walking along the narrow streets, carrying candles with the music and the crowds and the symbolic figures in fancy dress, feels very powerful.  You definitely feel part of a community.
 

3 comments:

  1. It was - and nothing 'faked' about it. This festival still has real meaning for people.

    ReplyDelete