La Befana was an old woman who lived in a small village in Italy. She was known throughout the village for her wonderful baking and the cleanliness of her kitchen. She was often seen sweeping the area in front of her home. And many had heard her say that she was so busy baking and cleaning that she rarely had time to do anything else.
One winter day, while La Befana was sweeping in front of her home, three travelers stopped to ask her for a drink of water. They told La Befana that they were astrologers (they were often called the three wise men) who were following a star to the birth place of the Christ child. She kindly gave them water and then invited them to dinner.
After dinner the astrologers prepared to continue their journey and asked her if she would like to come with them to see the Christ child. La Befana shook her head saying that she could not possibly take the time needed for such a journey. She was secretly itching to get back to her cleaning and cooking. She stood at her door and watched them leave.
La Befana went back to her sweeping. But hours later she began to feel that she had made a mistake. Maybe she should have gone with the 3 astrologers to see the Christ child. La Befana decided to follow them.
She quickly grabbed a basket and filled it with baked goods of all kinds. She then put on her shawl and with her basket and broom hurried off into the night practically running to catch up with the wise men.
La Befana traveled through the night but never caught up with the wise men. It is said that she ran and ran until she and her broom were lifted up into the air!
Ever since that night, La Befana is believed to fly through the night or run over the roofs in Italy on Epiphany eve. She stops at the home of every child, leaving them treats in their stockings if they are good and a lump of coal if they are bad.
She hopes that one of the children she visits will be the christ child.
Copyright LLL, Storyteller/Storysinger
The name Befana is said to be a mispronunciation of the Italian word epifania which stands for epiphany. La Befana still visits the children of Italy on the eve of January 6, Epiphany. She fills their stockings with candy or a lump of coal. It is also believed that she sweeps the floor before she leaves. Many households leave her a small glass of wine and a small plate of goodies.
The fig tree (Ficus carica) is the result of a majestic plant, native to the Mediterranean area.
It is believed that the fig tree is native of 'Asia, but according to other sources, however, its origin is placed in the Middle East. In any case, surely its origin is very old.
In the Bible, for example, is cited as the first "dress" of the story: Adam and Eve "dressed" in fact, of fig leaves. In the Old Testament, the fig is mentioned as a symbol of abundance.
In India, the banyan tree is considered sacred, and the plant is called Ficus Religious.
In Greece the fig tree was involved in many myths, especially of an erotic nature, they also saw it as a sacred tree, and attributed to the god Dionysus, the birth of this tree.
It is said that Polyphemus used the juice produced from the fig to coagulate the milk and produce cheese in his cave. Aristotle documented fact, in one of his writings, both techniques clotting milk : the coagulation of animal origin and the one with fig juice .
Plato was a great lover of figs, and for this reason he was given the name of "eater of figs." Also recommended to eat this fruit because according to him, helped to strengthen the intelligence.
For the Romans, the fig tree, was a sacred plant as the vine and the olive tree: it is said that during the New Year holidays, as a wish for a happy and prosperous year, they used to give to family and friends, honey and fig fruits. Pliny claimed that eating figs "makes us stronger young people, helps the health of the elderly, and reduces wrinkles."
Also the Phoenicians and Etruscans, are among the oldest populations feeding on figs.
Roses of figs
If you have fresh figs, take them, rinse and dry it with a soft cloth and gently wipe the outside.
Cut into 4 equal parts but without dividing the base (as in the photograph), then open them gently like a flower has four petals and formed with each slice of prosciutto ham a rose, which will place the center of each fig.