In popular Italian folklore, Befana is an old woman who visits all the children of Italy on Epiphany Eve, the night of January 5, to fill their stockings with candies, presents, and a rock candy made black with caramel coloring to represent a lump of coal. She is usually portrayed as a hag wearing a shawl and rugs covered in soot, and carrying a gunnysack filled with the goodies she delivers entering children’s houses through the chimney, which she reaches riding her flying broomstick.

Today Befana is celebrated throughout Italy with many different traditions that involve the old lady’s symbols. In Viterbo, on January 5th, thousands of people gather to enjoy the parade of the longest Befana stocking. This year, for the 19th edition of the event, a 52 meter long Befana stocking will be carried through the streets of the town center by 15 historic Fiat 500s from the ‘500 Tuscia Club’ and 100 Befanas. At the arrival in the Pilastro district, all the children present will receive a typical Befana stocking to take home with them.

The event, organized by the Centro Sociale Pilastro in collaboration with the City of Viterbo, 500 Tuscia Club, ADMO, AVIS, and Confartigianato, this year is dedicated to the Campo delle Rose association for a housing project for young people with autism. Viterbo mayor Giovanni Arena commented: “19 years ago I saw this beautiful tradition being born. It’s nice to see all these associations united with the purpose of solidarity, I want to underline the commitment of the association Campo delle Rose, fundamental for the life of children affected by autism.”

Ilona Catani Scarlett

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