Thursday, January 06, 2005

Merry Last Day of Christmas

[Adoration of the Magi, Abraham Bloemaert, 1624]

The Three Kings have arrived bearing gifts on this last day of Christmas, the Epiphany.

In Italy, today also marks the appearance of La Befana, the friendly Christmas witch. According to legend, she was an old woman sweeping her front steps when the Three Kings came by and asked for directions to Bethlehem (odd since they were guided by the Star). They asked La Befana to join them, but she refused, telling them she was busy with housework, and didn't follow them. Regretting her decision, she tried to catch up with them, but the Christmas Star was gone, and ever since, for all eternity she roams the world looking for the Gesu bambino- the Baby Jesus.

[Illustration from Italian Christmas card, artist unknown]

La Befana leaves gifts for good children on January 5, the night before Epiphany, hoping to find the Holy Child. The bad kids get the proverbial lumps of coal - which, when you think about it, is not a bad gift for cold Winter nights!

Happy Epiphany!

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