Epiphany in Calabria

The Calabrian Befana: legends, traditions and sweets
Befana

© vetre/Shutterstock

Tradition and folklore

An event dedicated to children but always loved by adults as well, Epiphany in Calabria is an opportunity to rediscover ancient local traditions, legends that have been passed down from one generation to the next and, why not, indulge in one last taste of typical festive sweets.

Let's find out together how the Befana is celebrated in Calabria and which are the ideal places to come across the timeless flying old lady.

Befana in Calabria: the night of the talking animals

The Epiphany in Calabria, which has always been suspended between the sacred and the profane, represents the last tail end of the Christmas festivities, as well as the last family holiday with the children before returning to their daily activities.

If in the collective imagination the Befana is the old woman who, riding a flying broomstick, delivers presents and sweets to children on the night between 5 and 6 January, the Befana in Calabria takes on a very special character, since it is linked to an ancient peasant legend.

The night of the Calabrian Befana is a time full of magic, during which animals are said to speak and judge their master. If the master has not behaved well during the year or has accidentally listened to their speeches, the animals curse him.

How to avert the curse? By addressing kind words to them on Epiphany Eve and by feeding them no less than 13 different foods, just as the master did to his guests on Christmas Eve.

The Epiphany table in Calabria, on the other hand, features a fish-based dinner with pasta ammuddicàta (with anchovies and breadcrumbs) and salt cod.

Another Calabrian tradition linked to the Epiphany is the unfailing Strina della Befana. The Strenna originated as a propitiatory song and a good omen for the agricultural season to come. In Calabria, it involves a group of players of bagpipes, tambourines and pipers, the typical Calabrian instruments, going around the streets of villages and from house to house.

zampo

Zampognari
Regione Calabria

On this "night of miracles", some old people also swear they have seen oil flowing out of the fountains and wine flowing in the torrents instead of water.

What to do for Epiphany in Calabria

What to do during Epiphany in Calabria? If you are on holiday with children or want to treat your children to an encounter with the Befana, you will be spoilt for choice.

The numerous Christmas Villages operating in many towns in the region, from north to south, are ready to welcome the little ones with the traditional Befana Houses, where the friendly old lady has already replaced her bearded colleague and is ready to receive children's letters.

Where are the unmissable Christmas Villages? In Reggio Calabria, Gerace (the latter with the magic of the "Enchanted Village"), Cinquefrondi and Siderno (RC); in Polistena and Tropea (VV); in Borgia and Soverato (CZ); in Taverna di Montalto Uffugo and Piano Lago (CS).

Borgo Incantato Gerace
Regione Calabria

Also not to be missed is a sampling of typical Befana sweets, which can be bought in the bakery or prepared at home and slipped into the traditional Epiphany Stockings as a gift for the little ones.

You cannot miss the various pìtte 'nchiùse (or 'mpigliàte, depending on the province), shortbread cakes made with leftover dried and candied Christmas fruit; Bagnara IGP Nougat, Liquorice of Calabria DOP logs, and chocolate-filled figs.

Torrone di Bagnara
Regione Calabria

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Ultimo aggiornamento: Feb 14, 2024 10:53 AM