The holidays are over. All the feasts have been eaten, all the candles have been extinguished, all the concerts have been heard. What starts on January 2 in the U.S. starts on January 7 here. Back to business.
It went out with a bang here. On January 5, the eve of the Epiphany, the town once again was illuminated by candlelight. Beginning at 6:00, there was no light except for the candles. Steve went out and helped light them in our neighborhood. It takes a while to light that many candles. Then we strolled all over town and marveled at the beauty of such a simple thing. I must say, though, that our neighborhood has the best participation. We have a gorgeous neighborhood, complete with arches over the streets and a curving stone staircase that goes up the hill. We have shops and the restaurant and many apartments, so there are a lot of people around. Some streets were dark – no candles at all. It was a little sad, and if I had known I would have volunteered to set them out, at least on the streets. But ours was glowing.
The night of January 5 is also when children are visited by the Befana, an old witch kind of creature who flies around on her broom and brings candy to good children. The bad ones get a lump of coal. Sound familiar? The candy, or coal, goes into their stockings that are hung by the chimney. Not sure how we merged all that with Santa, but here it’s two different things. Befana predates Santa, so I guess she is the true stocking stuffer. The legend is that the Wise Men asked the Befana to guide them to the stable where the Baby Jesus was. She was too busy cleaning her house at the time and declined. She soon realized her mistake and gathered up gifts and rode off on her broom in search of the Baby Jesus. To this day, she is searching every house for the Baby Jesus and leaving gifts for the good children as she searches. The lesson here is simple – never get too wrapped up in cleaning house.
Then on Janaury 6, the Feast of the Epiphany, everyone feasts. Most of the stores are closed, but almost all the restaurants are open. I guess a feast is a feast, whether you make it yourself or not. A lot of the restaurants were only open for lunch. It’s a big holiday here. We walked around in the early afternoon and there was no one around. No one was out, all the shops were closed, no cars on the streets.
We woke up on the Epiphany to snow. It’s been rainy here for a few days and we looked out the window and noticed snow mixed in with the rain. Then all snow. It was beautiful. It was too warm for it to accumulate, but later when we were walking we saw that all the mountain tops were white.
During these days of rain and feasts, we’ve been getting ready for our trip back. We’ve already packed a couple of suitcases and are gathering up everything that has made this little apartment home for the past six months. Now that the holidays are over and every one is back to work and operating normally (as normal as possible for Italy), we are going out today. We feel like we’ve been in the house for a few days, diligently working, and now we’re ready to strike out and have some fun. After all, that’s why we came here in the first place. The rest of our time here will be like this – working, packing, and arranging – followed by eating, drinking, and touring. Not a minute to waste!