Wednesday 7 January 2009
La Befana....and it's all over!
January 6th, and Christmas has finally come to an end.
In the UK, everything is over (including the shouting) once the hangover has wound down on January 1st; by the time the tree comes down on the 6th (if it even lasts that long) it's merely a sad and tired reminder of the long-distant memories of Christmas morning. In Italy, however, La Befana keeps it all going right through until the end. La Befana is an old crone with a broomstick, and January 6th is the day when she gives all good children shoes full of sweets as a reward for good behaviour (or, apparently, lumps of coal if otherwise). Mussolini was keen on the Befana celebration, apparently as part of the nationalist-consciousness-raising value that he ascribed to folklore customs of this kind (or 'fakelore' as the Technical Department growls disparagingly), but you can imagine he'd also have approved the practical arrangement of making the sixth a holiday, to allow people to remove all the detritus from Christmas and get their lives back on track in order to start the new year in an organised and productive manner.
So, we did. Final Christmas presents were exchanged on the evening of the fifth - a silver wine-bottle coaster, and a jar of Ukrainian honey from the central market in Kiev - and on the morning of the sixth the tree was denuded of ornaments and unceremoniously dumped in the rubbish bin in Via San Francesco. Sic gloria transit. Until next year.
Eggs in Ramekins with a saffron-scented Ratatouille.
Wood Pigeon in Parma Ham.
Limoncello Panna Cotta.