The Epiphany born as a Christian celebration: the revelation of God to the humans through His son Jesus. Epiphany means manifestation, but the liturgy reminds it as the arrival of the three Wise Men.
When Jesus born, the Jacob Star appeared. The Wise Men, remembering Isaiah prophecies, which announced the coming of God on earth, decided to leave to go and worship the Messiah, the King of Jews. Balthasar, Melchior, and Casper followed the comet star till Jerusalem bringing as gift gold, incense and myrrh. But once they arrived in Jerusalem, the star disappeared and they started to ask where he was the King of Jews, question that came to Herod’s ears. He was shocked and he asked to find Him and and pass to see him again, cause he wanted to worship Him as well. The three Wise men moved again, the start reappeared and they found the child Jesus in Bethlehem. After having worship and gave the presents, they went back to their country by another way having been advised in dream to do not pass again by Erode who had bad project.
The Epiphany night is magic: as the Venetians say “La note de l’Epifania tute ‘e bestie parla” (the night of the Epiphany all animals speak). In Italy, region by region, we have different popular traditions and celebrations are really fascinating even if they are less marked than the Christmas’ ones. Among these, the most popular is for sure the Befana: an old woman that the night between the 5th and the 6th of January, riding on her broom, brings presents and sweets to children that well behaved during the past year. The legend says you should hang a sock on the fireplace and the Befana will come to fill it by her own. But if you were a bad child, you will receive only coal. It is said that the everything began when the Wise Men, unable to find the way to Bethlehem, asked a woman who, despite their insistence to follow them, did not leave the house. After regretting it, she prepared a basket of sweets and she began to look for them, but failing, she began to stop door by door giving sweets to children in the hope that among them there was Jesus. From then on, she would have been travelling the world, giving gifts to all the children, in order to make amends.
In the world the Epiphany is celebrated in various ways:
- In Spain all the children leave something to eat and a glass of water for the camels in front of the door and they wake up in the morning of the 6th of January to see the gifts left by the Wise Men.
- In France a special dessert is made: the gallette des rois and person who finds the fava bean inside, becomes the king or the queen for a day with a crown too.
- In Iceland the 6th of January is called the thirteenth (13 days after Christmas) and being the last day of celebration, we say goodbye to Christmas. It starts with a torchlight procession in which the king and queen of the elves participate as well. Halfway joins the last of Santa Claus (the first one arrives on the 11th of December and then there is one coming every day until Christmas, then from the 25th of December one leaves every day). The torchlight procession ends with a bonfire and with fireworks.
- In Romania, still today, children go door by door asking to enter in order to tell stories and they receive few money back.
… but to do not let you empty-handed here how to prepare the sweet coal for rascal children:
- Beat 7g of charcoal in tablets to powder.
- Beat one egg white until stiff.
- Bring to the boil 300 g of granulated sugar and 3 dl of sparkling water. Cook the mixture on a high heat, stirring often to obtain a very dense syrup (about 10 minutes).
- Add the charcoal powder to the syrup, mix and then incorporate the whipped egg white and other 400 g of granulated sugar. When it begins to take consistency, add 300 g of icing sugar, mix and put into a disposable mould, or into smaller single-portion moulds.
- Let the sweet charcoal of the Befana to solidify in a fresh and dry place, then split it into pieces.