The Italian Almanac

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befana

Italian News - January 6

Italian kids hunted out stockings on Thursday ahead of the Epiphany holiday which brings a final round of gifts for children and the knowledge that seasonal festivities are almost over. According to tradition, a white-haired witch known as the 'Befana' arrives on her broomstick during the night of January 5 and fills the stockings of good children with toys and sweets. The naughty ones, on the other hand, find a lump of coal.

Parents who see Christmas as something of a challenge greet the January 6 Epiphany holiday with relief as it means children will soon return to school and there are no more expenses for the time being. According to consumer groups, this year the arrival of the Befana will generate turnover of 850 million euros for toy and sweet makers, about 50 million more than in 2005.

Because this year Epiphany falls on a Friday, many families are expected to take the opportunity of an extended weekend to travel to friends and relatives. National motorway group Autostrade said it expected over 10 million cars to circulate on its network over the next three days.

The pope will mark the Epiphany, when Christians celebrate the visit of wise men bearing gifts for Jesus, with a morning mass in St Peter's Basilica. In line with another Epiphany tradition, a procession of hundreds of people in medieval costumes will walk along the wide avenue leading up to the Vatican, carrying symbolic gifts for the pope.