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Tuesday, January 5, 2010

L'Epifania -- The Procession Of The Three Kings


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Three Kings make their annual procession through Stresa.

With la Festa dell'Epifania, on January 6, Italy marks the end of its long holiday season. Children all over Italy wait on Epifania Eve on January 5 to see what la Befana, the witch woman, will leave for them in their hanging stockings. Will it be little toys and candies, or, have they been naughty and therefore receiving only a lump of coal? Her name, Befana, is most likely a corruption of Epifania, and the legend is that la Befana was busy sweeping her house when the three Wise Men stopped on their journey to visit the baby Jesus in Bethlehem. She was invited to go also, but, too busy with her sweeping, she did not. Later, when her work was finished, she took her broom and went looking for them, but became lost. And so, to this day, she still searches for them on each Epifania Eve.

Stresa's children also will wake on L'Epifania and check their stockings to see what the Befana has left. But then, they may head outside to witness Stresa's own Epifania tradition, the annual March of the Three Wise Kings.

This year, the return to the year zero of the Christian era begins at 12:30, in Piazza Cadorna. Before the procession of the Kings begins, Stresiani and visitors are treated to warm traditional foods served from tables set up in the piazza. Polenta "concia" is served, as well as polenta with wild boar, and tripe. At 2 pm, small shops, more like market stands, open, with craftspeople representing the old trades of the time. And then, at 3:30, the procession begins. They leave from the Palazzo dei congressi, Joseph and Mary, the angels, the shepards, and the chimney sweeps. The Three Kings are stationed along the route: Gaspare at the Palazzo dei congressi, Baldassarre at the little piazza San Michele, and Melchiore on via Anna Maria Bolongaro. At 4 pm they reunite, meeting at the 'Court of Herod', this year represented by the staircase at Villa Ducale on the lungolago. From here, the entire procession moves to the 'grotto', arranged as always in the park of Villa Ducale. Here, they find the manger, and bestoy their gifts upon, Bambino Gesu, the baby Jesus.




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