Italian Christmas Decorations
by Giorgina Devereaux
Italian Christmas decorations provide you with the opportunity to add festive decor and old world charm to your home during the holiday season whether you are Italian or not.
In Italy, the Christmas season is celebrated from December 24th through January 6th.
The holiday has origins in Italian pagan folklore, with La Befana being an important character.
It is believed that Befana’s name is derived from the “Feast of Eiphany” or in Italian, “La Festa dell’Epifania.”
Epifania is a Latin word with Greek origins and means either the “Feast of the Epiphany” or “manifestation (of the divinity).”
La Befana is portrayed as an old wrinkly lady riding a broomstick through the air and wearing a black shawl. The lines on her old face told the story of the tragic loss of her husband and infant child to a sweeping disease, which left her a widow and childless.
She had very little, but the little she had was precious to her. At night, she would sit alone on her porch and gaze at the stars. She focused on finding a star that was rumored to be special as it signaled the birth of a new king.
According to legend, the Three Wise Men stopped by La Befana’s hut to ask for directions while on their journey to Bethlehem.
They reported that they saw the star and were looking for Bethlehem. The Three Wise Men invited La Befana to join them in their search for the new king, but she refused out of fear because these were strange men who spoke eloquently and she did not feel she would fit in amongst such company.
Later, a shepherd stopped by her hut and requested that she come and rejoice with him in Bethlehem to welcome the Christ Child. She also refused this request. When nighttime fell, to her surprise, she witnessed the new star in the sky.
She thought that maybe she should have gone with the Three Wise Men and decided to gather some toys that had belonged to her own child. In the morning, she went out in search of the Three Wise Men and the shepherd, but could not locate them or the stable. She traveled all day and asked for directions to Bethlehem, but no one she met knew where to direct her. At night, she looked for the star to guide her, but she could not find the star in the sky.
Each year, La Befana carries her gifts and treasures and peers into the faces of babies still seeking the Christ child. This is what makes La Befana such an integral part of Italian Christmas decorations. Although she cannot find the Christ child, she visits all the children of Italy on the eve of the Feast of the Epiphany (January 5th) and fills their socks with candy and presents if they have been good. If the children have been bad, she leaves a lump of coal or dark candy. La Befana is covered in soot due to entering homes through the chimney. She sweeps the floor before leaving. The child’s family usually leaves an offering for La Befana, such as, a small glass of wine and a plate with some portions of food.
Another important element of Italian Christmas decorations is the inclusion of
the Italian Crib. This crib resembles the French crèche, an elaborate
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