In Italy there is a proverb that says ‘L'Epifania tutte le feste se le porta via’ that means the Epiphany takes away the festive days.
That's true, in Italy after the Epiphany's day the New Year really starts, children come back school after the long Christmas break, people return to work and daily life starts again.
For Christians, Epiphany's Day is the arrival of the Three Kings to Bethlem, but in Italy, the night between the 5th and the 6th of January, kids wait for the Befana's arrival.
This popular tradition is very ancient, dating back to pagan rites, and there are many legends regarding this old lady.
This is my favourite one: the Befana was approached by the Three Kings asking for the directions to arrive to Bethlem. The Three Kings invited her to join them during the trip, but she declined because too busy.
Later the Befana changed her mind, but was not able to find them. From this moment the Befana visits all the houses with kids searching for Jesus, she fills the kid's socks with candies, chocolate, nuts ... and a little piece of coal for the bad ones.
The Befana is depicted as an old lady, really not so pretty but always smiling, dressed in rags and a broom used to fly in the night.
Today it's possible to find pre-prepared stockings, but I prefer to prepare them myself for my daughters. I fill them with candy, cookies, nuts, mandarins, small toys ... and a little bit of coal of course. I wrap every single piece using old magazine paper and it's really a pleasure see my little girls unwrap their little goodies in the early morning, still in pyjamas.
Nougat is perfect to fill a festive stocking, so I'm sharing my recipe for ‘Giuggiulena’ as this is the name of the sesame in the Sicilian dialect.
I use a lot of orange zest because for me orange's scent is Christmas in Sicily.