La Befana

I was at the Milwaukee Art Museum today experiencing 500 years of Italian Paintings called, “Of Heaven and Earth. These collections were painted by Giovanni Bellini, Sandro Botticelli, Domenichino Francesco Guardi, Salvator Rosa and originated in Rome, Naples, Siena, Florence and Venice. The experience was exhausting because of the rich history soaked stories that the artistic told in the paintings. Pensive and reminiscent we sat in the café watching all ages of people around us while we sipped our cozy hot drinks on the snowy cold Wisconsin winter day.

At the next table I saw and old women, wrinkled, grey covered with a head scarf as though she had fallen off one of the paintings in the museum. I mesmerized by her interesting character, while my espresso warmed my soul. My thinking drifted through the calendar of the next week. This years Christmas was behind us, I though to myself.  The tree was down, no more twinkling lights in the yard nor cheer filled festivities were planned in our lives. The weight of entire new year is ahead with its unknowns and uncertainties.

As I stared at the old women, I kept wondering what was familiar about her presence. Do I know you?, I thought. My mind was blank yet I felt familiar.

photo (15)On the car ride home I remembered the old women. I never knew her as it turns out, but she reminded me of a little old women in a favorite legend of mine.

The Feast of the Epiphany, celebrated on January 6 or 12 days from the birth of Jesus is in a few days. As the bible tells us, the Epiphany marks the 12th day of Christmas when the Three Wise Man found the manager in Bethlehem by the light the star. My understanding is the tradition of the Epiphany symbolizes the end of the Christmas Celebration.

There is a tradition in the Italian Christmas that is not so widely known or talked about. The legend of La Befana is celebrated in Italy on the night of January 5th. The tale of “La Festa dell’Epifana” or La Befana, the little witch would fly on her broom throughout Italy in the most poorest parts and fill the stockings of children. She would fill the poor children’s stocking with candy and toys, then clean up the ashes with her broom as she left through the chimney.

This story reminds me how the season has ends on January 6th, 2015.  The relevance of sharing, giving and celebrating are those characteristics that we should rekindle throughout the 2015.  While the warmth of the celebration has ended, may the memory of our traditions be inspirited throughout the year.

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