Rome celebrates La Befana

La Befana, which falls each year on 6 January, is a public holiday across Italy.

Italians celebrate the religious feast of the Epiphany, or the more popular folklore version of La Befana, on Monday 6 January 2020.

It is a public holiday across Italy and marks the official end of the Christmas season.

The 35th edition of the Viva la Befana event takes place on Via della Conciliazione, leading up to St Peter's, on the morning of  6 January, before the Angelus with Pope Francis at midday.

Comprising costumed figures, camels and horses, the parade is designed to combine Christian values with the folklore that the day evokes in Italy.
Viva La Befana returns to Via della Conciliazione.
In the Bible tradition the feast of the Epiphany is when the three magi arrive in Bethlehem to visit the Christ child.

However in the popular fairytale version the story goes that the wise men invited a witch, or strega, to join them on their journey to bring gifts to the Christ child. She initially refused, but then tried to follow them. Unable to find Jesus she gave the toys to other children.

In Rome, according to tradition, children hang stockings by windows or fireplaces in anticipation of her visit to receive sweets if they’ve been good or coal if they have misbehaved.

As a national holiday, public offices will closed, with most schools reopening on 7 January. State museums and archaeological sites in Rome and across Italy will be open however.

The post-Christmas sales season in the capital and the Lazio region begins the day before, on 5 January, and continues over the subsequent six weeks.