Our Italian Tradition
It was Christmas Eve. I sat, huddled in a ball, behind the armchair in my living room. I was trying to be as still and patient as I could be. I remember moments where I held my breath thinking if she heard me breathe, she would leave and I would never get a chance to see her. I could feel myself drifting off to sleep, but I tried to resist. All I wanted was to see her just once. Usually, I would be scared at the thought of a witch, but she was different. She was a magical witch who flew on a broom from house top to house top, visiting children and filling their shoes with candy and chocolates. Sure enough, I awoke the next morning to find myself still huddled in the same ball; I had fallen asleep before La Befana arrived. As I stood up yawning, I took a big stretch and noticed my Christmas shoes lying by my feet full of goodies.
La Befana is the Italian version of America’s Santa Clause. In fact, the idea of Santa Clause stems from the legend of the La Befana. On the night that baby Jesus was born, the Three Wise Men stopped at her hut asking directions to Bethlehem, and invited her to go along with them but she refused. Later, a shepherd boy stopped to ask her for directions. He invited her to join him in his journey to Bethlehem, but again, she refused. Later that night she saw a large star in the sky and reconsidered going to look for the stable where baby Jesus lay. She wanted to bring him the toys of her child who had died. But she did not find the stable, and now each year she looks for baby Jesus. Since she can not find him, she leaves gifts for the good children of Italy, and coal for the bad ones.
The story of La Befana is just one of the many Italian traditions my family embraces during the Christmas holiday. My mother was born in the southern part of Italy, in the city of Calabria. In 1957, her family sailed across the Atlantic Ocean aboard the Christopher Columbus, to the United States of America. Continuing life as they did in Italy, my mother’s family carried on many Italian traditions. By growing all of their own fruits and vegetables, they prepared all of their meals from scratch. Their house contained a cold cellar where my grandfather fermented grapes to create red wine, and my grandmother hung meats such as sausage, capicola, and sopressata. They canned vegetables for the winter by preparing them in large vats called vaso di croc where they preserved the vegetables with vinegar and salt. Along with these daily customs, my mother’s family continued the traditions of Italian holidays, which my family still maintains today. Because of this, I have grown up being aware of my Italian heritage and its customs.
In Italy, Christmas is not only a holiday centered on gift giving, but the appreciation of family and Jesus. Many of the Italian traditions during Christmas are focused on religious beliefs, as our mine. Throughout the...