Twelve days after Christmas on the 6th January is the Christian Festival of the Epiphany. The word derives from the Greek and means 'the manifestation' or 'the appearing' and Epiphany celebrates the manifestation of Jesus to the world through the visit of the magi who journeyed from the East to bring gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh and to worship Him.
|Epiphany tableau, St.Edmund's Church, Castleton, Derbyshire|
In Italy the feast of Epiphany (Epifania) is a national holiday. The night beforehand Italian children await La Befana (an old woman) who is expected to come and leave some sweets in the stocking they have left out for her. According to a story, the three wise men stopped at her house on their way to Bethlehem. La Befana was asked to join them on their journey. She refused because she was too busy cleaning her house. Later she changed her mind, set off with a basket of sweets in the hope of joining the wise men, but she was too late and she never found her way to the Christ Child despite stopping at each house, giving out sweets and asking where she could find Him. Every year on the night before Epiphany she still visits children's homes and leaves her gifts.
In our family we have followed the tradition of giving some small gifts of sweets to our children and
grandchildren at Epiphany.