Have you ever heard stories about the night of the Epiphany? The feast of Epifania, a cherished festivity in Italy, ends the holiday season. It’s the time when families take down their Christmas trees and pack up their presepi, but also a special night rich in legends.
On the night between 5 and 6 January, the pagan rites (first Greek and then Roman), were directed towards the winter solstice, the day on which the Sun god’s festivities (which began on 25 December) officially ended and the passage from the old to the new year was officially announced.
In the collective imagination, this event is tied to the folkloristic character of the Befana. This old woman with a broomstick on the night between 5th and 6th of January enters homes to bring sweets to good children and coal to bad ones. It is a legend that involves the whole of Italy, but in Calabria it turns into a night even more mysterious.
“La Notte della Befana nella stalla parla l’asino, il bove e la cavalla”
“During the Night of the Epiphany the donkey, the ox and the horse speak in the stable“.
It is narrated that on this night animals can talk, so their owners are sure to feed them well. In fact according to the folktale, popular in some parts of Calabria, animals judge the treatment they have received from their owners during the year.
If the owner was proved unkind, or if he dared to step into the stable to eavesdrop, the animals would curse him. In order to prevent this, the animals had to be fed in abundance with 13 different kinds of food. Despite being just a legend, it delivers a strong message: nothing good can come from treating animals badly.
Francesca Politi – JUMP Team