Last night, I closed the holiday season celebrating Epiphany day, which falls on Jan. 6.
Epiphany Day in my native Italy was the day when kids received their Christmas gift, note I said a gift in the singular form and received nothing for Christmas day. Christmas was only a religious celebration, a time to spend in holiness, reflecting on spirituality, with family cooking, laughing, loving and enjoying one another.
On the evening of Jan.5th, my parents told us kids to go to bed earlier than usual to allow the Befana (Epiphany) to come down through chimneys or other ways if there was no fireplace and leave one gift for each kid of the house. They also suggested leaving a little something to eat for the Befana. Flying on a broom from home to home, delivering gifts, made the old woman very tired, thus she needed to replenish her strength. A reminder of possibly receiving black charcoal at the Epiphany Day instead of a gift loomed over our head during the year, it kind of forced us to be good kids all the time. Black charcoal was only a chunk of sugar colored with black food coloring, but still, receiving it, was such an ordeal.
We went to bed early than usual, but we stayed awake listening for any noises indicating the Befana was in the house. In the morning, the food we left on the table for her was gone or half eaten and the gifts we found were exactly what we asked in the letter we wrote in December and gave to our parents to send to the Befana. It was so sweet, innocent and gratifying, because the Befana listened.
Until one day, I was eleven years old, I peeped through a keyhole and saw my parents arranging the gifts for us three kids in the usual place in the kitchen. The next day, we opened the gifts and of course we were very happy to receive just what we had asked. Then I told my father that I saw him and mom putting the gifts in place the night before. His answer was: “Oh yes?! Then you are too old to get gifts.” I never received one more gift at Epiphany Day, only some clothes for Christmas, a sweater, perhaps a pair of shoes, a skirt, but not all of them together, only one, until I was eighteen. Nothing else after that. I started working and gave them a gift instead.
The night of Jan. 6th was for a fun day for the adult too. They invited a bunch of friends with kids and together we took down all the chocolate decorations on the Christmas tree. It was another occasion to celebrate with food, a lot of love and laughter, or an excuse to organize the first party of the year. Kids plaid with their new toys.
Yesterday, as I do every year, I celebrated Epiphany Day my way, took down my Christmas decorations and cooked all bunch of food to share with a few friends. Reflecting on what really Christmas means these days, I don’t look forward to the holidays stress and spending. We should call the Christmas Season the “Stores’ Season” instead. In this part of the world, everything we do in the last three months of the year is about increasing stores sales, alleviating our bank account of a few thousand of dollars and stir ourselves crazy trying to enjoy the holidays in a frenzy way. People never receive gifts in their wish list, or receive useless gifts with no meaning, thus recycling the gifts received for the next occasions, or the next Christmas is a thing to do, while some other people pay their Christmas debts all year around. This is not the way to enjoy Holy Day, only a backward way of doing things!
During the holidays enjoy spending time with people you love and care about as long as they last, share food and fun with them. That’s the best gift.
I can officially say Au Revoir to the holidays. No resolutions for me, only continuing living life in colors and doing the best I can for others and me. I hope you have a splendid 2014. Ciao,
Copyright © 2014 Valentina Cirasola, All Rights Reserved
Valentina Cirasola has been in business as an interior designer since 1990 improving people’s life by changing their spaces. Often people describe her as “the colorist” for a reason. She lives in a colorful world, wrote a book on colors ©RED-A Voyage Into Colors and loves to color her clients’ environments by creating the unusual. Her deep interest in food led her as an autodidact in the studies of food in history, natural remedies, nutrition and well-being, then finally she wrote two books on Italian regional cuisine. Find Valentina’s three books on