Festival of the EpiphanyJanuary 2, 2014 9:00 am
If you want to spend the Christmas period in Rome and do it the Italian way, forget about Santa Claus and a roast turkey with trimmings on the 25th December. Hold out until the 6th January when the Italians celebrate their traditions on The Festival of the Epiphany.
The Epiphany, translated from Ancient Greek to mean ‘manifestation of the divinity’, celebrates the three wise men who brought gifts for Baby Jesus. Nowadays, it’s more a reason for children to put on their best behaviour in the hope that ‘La Befana’ rewards them with presents and treats on the evening of the 5th January.
La Befana is a fairytale character, believed to be an old woman with a broomstick who visits children’s homes on the eve of the Epiphany. She is said to reward them with treats if they’ve been good, or a lump of coal if they have behaved badly. Much like the tradition of Santa Claus in many ways, Italian families will also leave this festive character a small glass of wine and a plate of food to help her on her journey.
The Feast of the Epiphany is celebrated throughout Italy and in Rome with a bank holiday, where organised festivities and parades march down the street in celebration of the season and where some people even dress up as La Befana herself. If you’ve got a Santa outfit hidden away, bring yours along as well and join in; Father Christmas is still very much part of the celebrations!
We suggest you head to the Vatican City to watch the medieval parade down the avenue up to St Peter’s Basilica, where you can admire the over-the-top antique costumes and symbolic gifts. If you’re after something a little more edifying, however, just arrive a bit earlier for the morning mass delivered by The Pope himself.
If you’re planning on visiting Rome during this period, you will be immersed in the rich culture and vibrant celebrations of this longstanding tradition. We can promise you’ll leave feeling a little more festive and perhaps with even happier children!