All over Italy La Befana is still nowadays so important for many children.
Although overshadowed by the modern tradition of Santa Claus, La Befana remains adored by Italian children, who hang up their stockings in anticipation of gifts on the night between 5 and 6 January.
She is usually portrayed as a hag riding a broomstick, wearing a black shawl and a scarf on the head, and is covered in soot because she enters the children’s houses through the chimney. She carries good children candies, mandarin, and toys, the naughty children onions, and charcoal. The stockings are placed by windows or over fireplaces, with a glass of wine or some Christmas treats left out as refreshments for La Befana
In the popular fairytale version, the story tells that the Wise Men invited a witch-like woman, or Strega, to join them on their journey to bring gifts to the Christ child.
She initially refused, due to being too busy with housework, but then tried to follow them. Unable to find Jesus the kind-hearted Befana gave the toys to other children.
Being a good housekeeper, many say she will sweep the floor before she leaves. To some the sweeping meant the sweeping away of the problems of the year.
There are poems about La Befana, which are known in slightly different versions throughout Italy. Here is one of the versions:
La Befana vien di notte
Con le scarpe tutte rotte
Col vestito alla romana
Viva, Viva La Befana!
The English translation is:
The Befana comes by night
With her shoes all tattered and torn
She comes dressed in the Roman way
Long live the Befana!
As mothers do not want to be bad with their children, many times children are given sugar charcoal, which can be black or in many other colors. Would you like to try it as a new treat?
500 gr= 2 cups of granulated sugar
100 gr=3/4 cup of custard/confectioners/icing sugar
water (about 100 gr) to taste
food colors to taste
1 egg white
How to make sweet charcoal of the Epiphany
1. Put 300 grams=1 cup and a half of granulated sugar in a non-stick pan and add enough water to cover it all and let it caramelize over medium heat. It is important not to turn the sugar inside the pan during caramelization
3. While the sugar caramelizes prepare the black glaze. Whip the egg white until stiff with the help of electric whisks, then add the remaining granulated sugar and a pinch of food coloring. Finally, add the icing sugar and mix everything.
4. As soon as the sugar in the pan begins to take on a brown color, add the freshly prepared black glaze and lower the heat.
5. Stir until the mixture begins to swell. At that point pour it immediately into a high plum cake mold lined with parchment paper and level it with the help of a spoon.
6. Let it cool to harden.
7. After 3 hours, remove it from the mold and put it on a cutting board.
Tear it to pieces with the help of a meat beater and put it in your children’s socks.
Felice Befana !!!