Posts Tagged ‘holidays’

Christmas in Calabria: La Festa della Befana

Tuesday, January 5th, 2010

Think Christmas is over? Think again. For the children of Italy, January 6 marks the day when La Befana*, the cherished Christmas witch delivers stockings and presents to all of the good little ragazzi. In true Italian style, the legend of La Befana is filled with mystery, intrigue and drama and dates back to Jesus’ birth, when the Three Wise Men were searching for his manger.

According to the legend, The Three Wise men met La Befana as they were looking for the manger, asked her for directions, and invited her to come along. She refused their invitation because she was too busy cleaning her house.

Later that night, she saw a great light rising into the sky and decided to join the Three Wise Men in search for the infant King. She ran after them, still carrying her broom, but got lost and never made it to the manger. Somehow her broom magically began to fly, but she still could not find the Wise Men or the baby.

Each year she continues her search on the night before the Epiphany and fills stockings with candy to the good children-or coal to the bad ones- throughout the country.

And this is quite the holiday.

Photo: Trevino on Flickr

Children in Calabria adore La Befana and anticipate her arrival much in the same way as children in the US look forward to Santa. In fact, it is only the last 30 years or so that Santa increased his popularity in southern Italy and many of my older Italian friends remember the Feast of the Epiphany with the same childlike wistfulness as we remember our childhood Christmas mornings.

For more information on La Befana, you can read an article I wrote last year about the feast of La Befana or you can read about the Epiphany here.

Cherrye Moore is a freelance writer and B&B owner living in Calabria, Italy. In addition to Affordable Calling Cards, she writes about living and traveling in Calabria at her website, My Bella Vita.

*According to The Florentine, the name “Befana” derives from the word “Epifania,” the name of the holiday that ends the 12 days of Christmas and is celebrated on January 6.

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Christmas in Chile

Tuesday, December 22nd, 2009

That’s right; I said it. The “C” word. Not Happy Holidays or Seasons Greetings, but Christmas. Here in Chile, we don’t go in for PC, diverse, inclusive messages of holiday cheer – it’s straight-up Feliz Navidad.

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Outside La Moneda, the seat of the executive branch / CC BY 2.0

My dirty little secret is that I like it. I come from the San Francisco Bay Area, a bastion of all that is, well, PC, diverse and inclusive. I don’t remember when I was taught that it’s better to say one of the non-religious wintertime greetings because I think I always knew. I understand that the thinking is that while I celebrate Christmas, you may not, but I have to say I find it a little silly. If someone were to wish me a Happy Hannukah or Kwanzaa or Ramadan or whatever, I’d take it as their way of wishing me well rather than an attempt at converting me.

That’s why being in primarily Catholic Chile at this time of year is refreshing. Although the weather may not have me thinking Christmas, most apartment and office buildings have a decorated tree in the lobby. And it’s festive, damn it. I like that magical elves (or secretaries, close enough) decorated our office with garlands that have a decidedly red and green bent. They may not encompass the personal beliefs of every person in my office, but they sure brighten up grey-blue cubicle walls.

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I’m not by any means saying that everyone should celebrate Christmas. I’m not religious, so I can’t get too excited about the real reason behind it all, and if you have your own favorite holiday then I wish you a very good one of those. And if I bump into you on the street, I hope you’ll understand what I mean when I say “Merry Christmas.”

Emily Williams is a US gringa living in Santiago, Chile. She writes about expat life at and on her personal blog, Don’t Call Me Gringa, and loves hearing from readers!

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