Category Archives: Italian Customs

International Women’s Day – Auguri alle donne!

festa donna 8 marzoMarch 8th, International Women’s Day, is celebrated widely in many countries around the world, though it is little known in the US. I first heard of it shortly after I’d moved to Italy.

Women’s Day is a celebration of all that is wonderful about women, and it’s a day to pause and reflect on the accomplishments and importance of the role of women in our world. It’s also a moment to consider improvements and changes needed to better the quality of women’s lives in general, and especially of women and girls whose rights and life conditions are compromised or perilous.

In Italia la Festa della Donna si festeggia l’8 di marzo. | In Italy, Women’s day is celebrated on March 8th.

festa donna mazze mimose

Mazze di mimose | Bouquets of mimosa flowers

Gli uomini regalano i fiori, solitamente le mimose, alle colleghe di lavoro e a tutte le altre donne importanti nelle loro vite… mamme, sorelle, fidanzate, ragazze, ecc. | Men give flowers, usually mimosas, to their co-workers and to all the other important women in their lives… moms, sisters, fiances, girlfriends, etc.

And contrary to popular belief, the mimosa is not just a popular cocktail made from succo d’arancia (orange juice) and champagne. Rather, it was the mimosa flower that inspired the drink!

mimosa.drink

The famous mimosa cocktail

The mimosa is the fragrant and fluffy yellow pom-pom-like flower of the acacia tree.  Like in Italy, California (where Italiano With Jodina is based) is full of acacia trees this time of year, which is why this flower is so common on this day.  I love the smell of these flowers — their fragrance zooms me straight back to wonderful memories of life in Italy!


Special Women’s Day auguri (well wishes) for the special ladies in your life:

  1. Auguri a tutte le donne del mondo ed in particolare alla mia che è la più bella che ci sia!” | Good wishes to all the women of the world and in particular to mine who is the most beautiful there is!
  2. Questa mimosa è bella come te che splendi e profumi nel giorno della tua festa.” | This mimosa is as beautiful as you that shine and are fragrant on your special day.
  3. La donna è la colonna portante del mondo, senza te tutto crollerebbe e la nostra famiglia andrebbe in rovina… Grazie donna, grazie mamma.” | The woman is the main support column of the world, without you everything would collapse and our family would go into ruin… Thank you woman/lady, thank you mom.

women dressed in yellowRemember to give an extra hug or shout out today to the women that matter in your life. And remember the women whose lives are not what they could be… We’ve come a long way baby, ma c’è ne ancora di strada da fare! (there’s still a ways to go!)


Leave a comment! Have you heard of Women’s Day before?  Do you celebrate it?  Which mimosa do you prefer, the flower or the cocktail?

Posted in Italian Customs, Italian Holidays, learn italian | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

Verona is for lovers… and graffiti artists + Valentine’s Love Phrases

Il balcone at Juliet’s House

A little while back, I had the chance to spend a little time in Verona, and of course one of the places I visited was the famed Casa di Giulietta (Juliet’s House). Though it’s not really her house, nor is there any proof that she ever existed outside the Bard’s play, it has become a pilgrimage for innamorati (lovers) and others who want to witness this fictional place and perhaps leave their mark as an ommaggio (homage) to love…

It’s pretty straightforward, and yet…

And there’s where it gets tricky – what some consider an amorous declaration others deem defacement of public property. If you’ve ever been to la Casa di Giulietta, you’ve probably seen what I mean. Despite visibly posted signs citing ordinances prohibiting attaching love letters or notes and writing on surfaces, at the penalty of steep fines and even possible jail time, the practice persists mostly unfettered.

Iron gates laden with lovers’ padlocks

Chewing gum, post-its, love letters and graffiti declaring love (and sometimes less noble slogans) adorn the entryway of the portico, walls and other surfaces in the courtyard; and padlocks hang from the iron gates. And though technically it’s not allowed and is frowned upon by many as a lack of decent manners and decorum, people, especially Italian high-schoolers on field trips,

More room at the top…

continue leaving their mark in broad daylight.

In relatively recent years these surfaces have been subject to major clean-up campaigns at least twice (2008, 2012), with new fines, and the police of Verona put on alert. But it seems they can’t stop love – in just a matter of time, love birds/graffiti artists/wall defacers win out, and the surroundings return to their previously graffiti-ized state. Apparently after the most recent scrubbing, temporary wall overlays were put up to protect some of the original surfaces – knowing that visitors would continue leaving their mark.

Graffiti overload

Trees + bricks + love notes gone wild

School kids congregate at the entrance

While I don’t condone the graffiti-ing of this location, I do find it fascinating that a place associated with a fictional story of star-crossed lovers holds such a powerful attraction for the collective imagination. La Casa di Giulietta seems to have become a sort of a participatory public art installation. Visitors are driven by the desire to bring good luck in love by leaving a note or rubbing the statue of Juliet. Maybe that’s why the police and even the shopkeepers [whose sales must no doubt benefit from these visitors] seem to tolerate the spectacle…  Maybe the true story is in people’s imaginations, and perhaps it’s true, perhaps you simply can’t fight love… or high-schoolers hyped up on hormones, gone wild with gum and sharpies…


This club receives letters from lovebirds wanting advice

Want to write or whisper some sweet nothings to your beloved this Valentine’s Day? Here are a few that will warm their heart…

  • Caro/a: Dear or darling
  • Tesoro: Treasure, sweetie
  • Amore, amore mio: Love, my love
  • Ti amo: I love you (for romantic loves)
  • Ti voglio bene: I care about you, I love you (for anyone)
  • Sei nel mio cuore: You are in my heart
  • Per sempre: Forever
  • Baci e abbracci: Kisses and hugs
  • Buon San Valentino! : Happy Valentine’s Day!

What do you think of all the love notes from visitors to la Casa di Giulietta? Should authorities crack down on love birds who leave their mark? What can or should be done? If you could, would you leave a love letter or declaration at Juliet’s House?

Posted in Italian Customs, Italian Holidays, learn italian | Tagged , , , , | 4 Comments

“Blackbird Days”: Italy’s Distant Cousin to Groundhog Day

Does groundhog see his shadow?

Christmas holidays have come and gone, and by the end of January, many of us have had it with cold, gray, rainy or snowy weather. How much more of this and how much longer ’til spring? If you’re in the U.S., you might check in to find out whether the groundhog saw his shadow. In Italy, there’s a similar spring-predicting folklore, and it centers on the humble blackbird, who according to legend, started out white…


Prefer to read this post in English? Skip to the text in  green.

“Blackbird days”

I giorni della merla sono il 29, 30, e 31 di gennaio. Secondo la leggenda, se questi giorni sono freddi la primavera sarà bella, e se sono caldi la primavera arriverà tardi.  Questo è forse la cosa più vicina nel folclore italiano all’osservanza di Groundhog Day (2 febbraio) negli Stati Uniti, secondo la quale, se la marmotta (the groundhog) vede la sua ombra, l’inverno durerà altre sei settimane. Se invece non vede l’ombra la primavera è in arrivo.

January 29-30-31

“Blackbird days” are the 29th, 30th and 31st of January.  According to legend, if these days are cold, spring will be beautiful, and if they are warm, spring will arrive late.  This is perhaps the closest thing in Italian folklore to the observance of Groundhog Day (February 2nd) in the United States, according to which, if the groundhog sees its shadow, winter will last another six weeks.  If instead it doesn’t see its shadow, spring is on the way.

Merla, blackbird, was once white

La leggenda dei giorni della merla ha le sue radici nei tempi romani quando nel calendario il mese di gennaio ancora conteneva solo 28 giorni.  Secondo la storia, una merla, con uno splendido candido piumaggio, veniva regolarmente strapazzata da gennaio, mese freddo e ombroso, che si divertiva ad aspettare che lei uscisse dal nido in cerca di cibo, per gettare sulla terra freddo e gelo.

January casts bitter cold & snow

The legend of  “blackbird days” has its roots in Roman times when the calendar month of January still only contained 28 days.  According to the story, a blackbird, with her splendid, snow white plumage was usually thrown about by January, a cold and overcast month, who amused himself by waiting for her to leave her nest in search of food, and then casting bitter cold and frost onto the Earth.

Merla sings to mock January

Stanca delle continue persecuzioni, la merla un anno decise di fare provviste sufficienti per un mese, e si rinchiuse nella sua tana, al riparo, per tutto il mese di gennaio, che allora aveva solo ventotto giorni. L’ultimo giorno del mese, la merla, pensando di aver ingannato il cattivo gennaio, uscì dal nascondiglio e si mise a cantare per sbeffeggiarlo.

Tired of the ongoing harassment, one year the blackbird decided to gather enough provisions for a month and closed herself in her burrow, taking refuge for the entire month of January, which at the time had only 28 days.  The last day of the month, thinking to have outsmarted the wicked January, she left her hideaway and started singing to mock him.

January gets mad and borrows days from February

Gennaio se ne risentì così tanto che chiese in prestito tre giorni a febbraio (che allora aveva ancora 31 giorni) e si scatenò con bufere di neve, vento, gelo, e pioggia. La merla si rifugiò  in un camino e lì restò al riparo per tre giorni. Quando la merla uscì, era sì salva, ma il suo bel piumaggio si era annerito a causa del fumo e del fuliggine, e malgrado cercava di ripulirsi non ci riusciva.

Merla seeks refuge in a chimney

January took such great offense that he asked February (which then still had 31 days) for a loan of three days, and he went crazy with snow storms, wind, ice, and rain.  The blackbird took refuge in a chimney and there she stayed sheltered for three days.  When the blackbird came out, she was indeed safe, but her beautiful plumage had blackened from the smoke and soot, and despite her efforts to clean herself up, she wasn’t able.

Since then Merla’s feathers have been black

Il potente gennaio si godette la scena e poi disse con il suo vocione: “Che questo serva da lezione a voi e a tutti gli animali: non si scherza con le stagioni, con il freddo o con il clima. Non ci si può prendere gioco della Natura. Da oggi in poi io (gennaio) avrò 31 giorni e gli ultimi tre giorni saranno i più freddi dell’anno. Per ricordare a tutti questa storia, i merli porteranno per sempre queste piume nere”.

Blackbird Days proverb

Powerful January was amused by the scene, and then he said in his thundering voice, “ Let this serve as a lesson to you and to all the animals:  You don’t joke with the seasons, with the cold or with the climate.  You cannot mock Nature.  From today forward, I (January) will have 31 days, and the last three will be the coldest of the year.  To remind everyone of this story, the blackbirds will forever more bear black feathers.


Well, here where I live, the last three days of January were not very cold, so, I guess that means spring is still long way off… *sigh*. How about the weather where you are? Heard of the “Blackbird days” story before? What’s your take on animal and weather folklore?

Posted in Italian Customs, Italian Holidays, Italian Vocabulary, learn italian | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Arriva la Befana | The Befana Is Coming

Around Italy, i ragazzi, the kids, are getting ready to hang their calze, stockings, by il camino, the chimney, with care, in hopes that la Befana soon will be there.

i bravi, the good ones, will get caramelle, candies, and little regali, presents, while i cattivi, the bad ones will get carbone, coal.

While Babbo Natale, Santa Claus, comes on Christmas Eve, la Befana arrives during the night between January 5/6, coinciding with l’Epifania, Epiphany.

There are other noteable similarities and differences between the main present-bringer, Santa, and la Befana.

Just like Babbo Natale, la Befana travels through the air. In place of a sleigh with flying reindeer, befana dollla Befana flies a broomstick from house to house where there are bambini, children, entering by way of il camino.

Where Babbo Natale is rotund, merry, white-bearded and dressed in red and white, la Befana is depicted as a smiling, grandmotherly-looking witch, wearing tattered clothing and covered in soot astride a broomstick.

Just like Santa Claus, la Befana’s origins are nebulous, mainly the stuff of folklore, with many variations.befana + re magi
The most common story I encounter is that la Befana lived along the route the Magi took to Bettlemme, Bethlehem. In this version, they stopped at her house seeking food and shelter, but she wasn’t feeling sociable and sent them away.

Later, la Befana had a change of heart and set out to find the Magi to accompany them to find the Christ Child. But by then, she was too late to catch up, and she never found the three kings or the baby Jesus.

So, as the story goes, to this day, at this time of year, she still travels the world, leaving gifts for every child, lest they be il Gesù Bambino, the Baby Jesus.

Poster for a Befana event

January 6, the Epiphany, marks the official end of the Italian Christmas holiday season. It is also said that la Befana takes away the old year, and i dolci, sweets, and regali she brings symbolize seeds to grow in the new year.

Many cities and towns hold special events and parties dedicated to celebrating la festa dell’Epifania/la Befana, Epiphany holiday. People play bingo and cards, and gather outdoors in the piazze, squares, for festivities, including music, processions, live presepi, nativity scenes, mercatini, open-air markets, and live appearances by la Befana.

And while it’s mainly a celebration for the kiddos, you’ll find adults getting in on the action, too, dressing up and parading around as la Befana.

Feeling festive? Perhaps you want to get into the act, too… You could wish people “Buona Befana!,” a popular greeting on January 6 in Italy.

This could be a great time to adopt a fun new tradition, with kids, family or friends. All you need is una calza, a stocking!

Buona Befana, and hope she brings you caramelle!

Have you heard of la Befana before? Do you have any special observances for Epiphany?

Have fun practicing the Italian words in this story on Quizlet!! Click here to access the Quizlet Christmas Round-up list, and use the password JODINA.

Posted in Italian Customs, Italian Holidays, Italian Vocabulary, learn italian | Tagged , , , , | 2 Comments

Auguri alle donne! | International Women’s Day

festa donna 8 marzoMarch 8th is International Women’s Day. This day is observed widely in many countries around the world. Oddly though, it is not observed in the United States. In fact, the first time I’d heard of it was shortly after I’d moved to Italy.

In italia la Festa della Donna si festeggia l’8 di marzo. | In Italy, Women’s day is celebrated on March 8th.

festa donna mazze mimose

Mazze di mimose | Bouquets of mimosa flowers

Gli uomini regalano i fiori, solitamente le mimose, alle colleghe di lavoro e a tutte le altre donne importanti nelle loro vite… mamme, sorelle, fidanzate, ragazze, ecc. | Men give flowers, usually mimosas, to their female colleagues and to all the other important women in their lives… moms, sisters, fiances, girlfriends, etc.

Contrary to popular belief, the mimosa is not just a popular cocktail made from succo d’arancia (orange juice) and champagne, though I suspect this drink was inspired by the true mimosa.

mimosa.drink

La mimosa piu` famosa — the most famous mimosa: Mimosa Cocktails

The mimosa is the fragrant and fluffy yellow pom-pom-like flower of the acacia tree.  California is full of these trees this time of year, as is Italy, which is why this flower is so common on this day.  I love the smell of these flowers — their fragrance zooms me straight back to wonderful memories.

Below are a few Women’s Day auguri (greetings) to share with someone special:

  1. Questa mimosa è bella come te che splendi e profumi nel giorno della tua festa.” | This mimosa is as beautiful as you that shine and are fragrant on your special day.
  2. Auguri a tutte le donne del mondo ed in particolare alla mia che è la più bella che ci sia!” | Good wishes to all the women of the world and in particular to mine who is the most beautiful there is!
  3. La donna è la colonna portante del mondo, senza te tutto crollerebbe e la nostra famiglia andrebbe in rovina… Grazie donna, grazie mamma.” | The woman is the main supporting column of the world, without you everything would collapse and our family would go into ruin… Thank you woman, thank you mom.

women dressed in yellowWomen’s Day is a celebration of all that is wonderful about women, and it is a day to pause and reflect on the accomplishments and importance of the role of women in our world. It’s also a moment to consider improvements and changes needed to better the quality of women ‘s lives in general, and especially of women and girls whose rights and life conditions are extremely compromised or perilous.

Remember to give an extra hug or shout out to the women who matter in your life today. And remember also the women whose lives are not what they could be. We’ve come a long way baby, ma c’è ne ancora di strada da fare! (there’s still a ways to go!)

Have you heard of Women’s Day before?  Do you celebrate it?  Which mimosa do you prefer, the flower or the cocktail?  😉  Love your comments!

Posted in Italian Customs, Italian Holidays, learn italian, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

Love, Italian Style | Amore all’italiana

saying i love you in italian“Ti amo” or “Ti voglio bene”?

That is the question for italophiles this upcoming day of San Valentino.  The answer, it turns out, depends on the object of your affections.

“Ti amo” (I love you) is reserved for romantic loves, while “Ti voglio bene” (I want/wish you well) is used to say I love you to everyone: family, friends, and lovers. Per non fare brutta figura (to not make a faux pas) watch the video below!

After the video, check out the round-up of Italian love phrases to help you sweep your adorato (adored one) off their feet! Plus a link to send free online Italian Valentine’s Day cards.

Video:  Saying “I love you” in Italian

More instructional videos >>

Be your own Don Giovanni with these romantic phrases!

  1. Buon San Valentino (Happy Valentine’s Day)
  2. Ti amo. (I love you. Used only for romantic love.)
  3. Ti adoro. (I adore you.)
  4. Amore mio (My love, my beloved)
  5. Tesoro mio (My treasure)
  6. Ti voglio bene. (I love/care about you. Used for all types of relationships: family, friends, lovers.)
  7. I tuoi occhi brillano come le stelle. (Your eyes shine like stars.)
  8. Sei bella come una rosa. (You are as beautiful as a rose.)
  9. Per sempre (Forever)
  10. Per sempre tua,o (Forever yours)
  11. Sono pazza,o di te. (I’m crazy for you.)
  12. Anima mia (My soul)
  13. Sei incredibile. (You’re incredible.)
  14. Sei bellissima,o. (You’re very beautiful.)
  15. Sei un dono. (You are a gift.)
  16. Sei stupenda,o. (You’re fantastic.)

Send a free online Italian Valentine’s card to someone special at www.kisseo.it.

heart in cappuccino coffeeA tutti i miei lettori un buon San Valentino! Siete stupendi! (To all of my readers, a happy Valentine’s Day! You’re fantastic!)

Got a favorite Italian  love phrase or anecdote? Ever wished someone Happy Valentine’s in italiano? Sei un tipo romantico? (Are you the romantic type?) Leave a comment below!

Posted in Expressions, Italian Customs, Italian Holidays, italian idiomatic expressions, Italian idioms, learn italian, Sayings | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

Buoni propositi per l’anno nuovo | New Year’s Resolutions

[Note: Any text in Italian is followed by the English translation.]

È giunto quel momento: un nuovo anno luccicante è iniziato! Un anno pieno di possibilità e buoni propositi, cioè tutti quegli atti e nobili intenzioni che vorremmo riuscire a mettere in pratica nei prossimi dodici mesi.

That moment has arrived: a shiny new year has begun! A year full of possibilities and resolutions, that is to say, all those actions and noble intentions  that we’d like to be able to put into practice in the next twelve months.

Ecco i miei, o perlomeno tre dei miei più importanti obiettivi:

Here are mine, or at least three of my most important goals:

– Rimettermi in forma… visto che l’anno scorso ho messo su peso e non mi vanno più i ginnasticajeans… uffa! Mi sono già iscritta ad un intenso programma di ginnastica.

– Get back in shape… seeing that last year I put on weight and can no longer get into my jeans… darn it! I have already signed up for an intensive exercise program.

– Imparare a gestire e investire intelligentemente i soldi… visto che ormai sono diventata responsabile con le finanze, è giunto il momento di procedere al prossimo traguardoinvestire soldi… Sono brava con le parole, ora voglio migliorare le capacità finanziarie.

– Learn to intelligently manage and invest money… seeing that by now I have become responsible with my finances, the moment has arrived to move to the next milestone… I’m good with words; now I want to improve my financial skills.

– Imparare a cantare e a usare bene la voce. È sempre stato il mio sogno poter cantar bene, o almeno decentemente (possibilmente evitando che i cani abbaino mentre intono una canzone). In più, visto che parlo per mestiere, apprendere l’uso corretto Jodina singing at Cicciotti's-editeddell’apparato vocale-respiratorio penso sia un buon investimento nella mia vita professionale.

– Learn to sing and use my voice well. It has always been my dream to be able to sing well, or at least decently (possibly avoiding that dogs howl when I sing a song). Moreover, seeing that I speak for a living, I believe that learning to correctly use my vocal-respiratory apparatus is a good investment in my professional life.

Questi sono i miei propositi per il 2015. Le aspirazioni e i sogni che punto a realizzare. Dichiararli agli altri è sempre difficile, ma fondamentale. Per questo vi chiedo di condividere anche i vostri. Che cosa farete nel nuovo anno? Come investirete il vostro tempo? Per quali obiettivi lotterete?

These are my resolutions for 2015. Aspirations and dreams that I aim to realize. Declaring them to others is always difficult but essential. For this reason, I’m asking you to share yours, too. What will you do in the new year? How will you invest your time? What goals will you strive for?

Auguro a tutti un anno  felice e pieno di creatività!

I wish everyone a happy new year full of creativity!

Posted in Italian Customs, Italian Holidays, learn italian, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , | 23 Comments

Auguri alle donne! | International Women’s Day

festa donna 8 marzoMarch 8th is International Women’s Day. This day is observed widely in many countries around the world. Oddly though, it is not observed in the United States. In fact, the first time I’d heard of it was shortly after I’d moved to Italy.

In italia la Festa della Donna si festeggia l’8 di marzo. | In Italy, Women’s day is celebrated on March 8th.

festa donna mazze mimose

Mazze di mimose | Bouquets of mimosa flowers

Gli uomini regalano i fiori, solitamente le mimose, alle colleghe di lavoro e a tutte le altre donne importanti nelle loro vite… mamme, sorelle, fidanzate, ragazze, ecc. | Men give flowers, usually mimosas, to their female colleagues and to all the other important women in their lives… moms, sisters, fiances, girlfriends, etc.

Contrary to popular belief, the mimosa is not just a popular cocktail made from succo d’arancia (orange juice) and champagne, though I suspect this drink was inspired by the true mimosa.

mimosa.drink

La mimosa piu` famosa — the most famous mimosa: Mimosa Cocktails

The mimosa is the fragrant and fluffy yellow pom-pom-like flower of the acacia tree.  California is full of these trees this time of year, as is Italy, which is why this flower is so common on this day.  I love the smell of these flowers — their fragrance zooms me straight back to wonderful memories.

Below are a few Women’s Day auguri (greetings) to share with someone special:

  1. Questa mimosa è bella come te che splendi e profumi nel giorno della tua festa.” | This mimosa is as beautiful as you that shine and are fragrant on your special day.
  2. Auguri a tutte le donne del mondo ed in particolare alla mia che è la più bella che ci sia!” | Good wishes to all the women of the world and in particular to mine who is the most beautiful there is!
  3. La donna è la colonna portante del mondo, senza te tutto crollerebbe e la nostra famiglia andrebbe in rovina… Grazie donna, grazie mamma.” | The woman is the main supporting column of the world, without you everything would collapse and our family would go into ruin… Thank you woman, thank you mom.

women dressed in yellowWomen’s Day is a celebration of all that is wonderful about women, and it is a day to pause and reflect on the accomplishments and importance of the role of women in our world. It’s also a moment to consider improvements and changes needed to better the quality of women ‘s lives in general, and especially of women and girls whose rights and life conditions are extremely compromised or perilous.

Remember to give an extra hug or shout out to the women who matter in your life today. And remember also the women whose lives are not what they could be. We’ve come a long way baby, ma c’è ne ancora di strada da fare! (there’s still a ways to go!)

Have you heard of Women’s Day before?  Do you celebrate it?  Which mimosa do you prefer, the flower or the cocktail?  😉  Love your comments!

Posted in Expressions, Italian Customs, Italian Holidays, learn italian | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

La Befana viene stanotte! | Befana Comes Tonite!

befana cartoon, on broomBabbo Natale (Santa Claus) didn’t check everything off your list? Not to worry. You get a second chance tonite.
Kid’s all over Italy are getting ready to hang up their stockings for la Befana to fill this eve of Epiphany, January 6, the day of when the wise men are said to have arrived in Bethlehem.

Just like Babbo Natale, la Befana flies through the air (in place of a sleigh with reindeer, befana dollthe Befana flies a broomstick – both pretty incredible, really) from house to house where there are bambini, entering by way of il camino (the chimney) and leaving treats for i bambini che sono stati buoni (the kids who have been good) and coal for i bambini cattivi (the naughty children). No mention is made of whether she has a list that she checks twice, but I digress . . .

Where Babbo Natale is rotund, merry, white-bearded and dressed in red and white, la Befana is depicted as a smiling , grandmotherly-looking witch, wearing tattered clothing and covered in soot astride a broomstick.
So what do we know of la Befana’s origins? Well, it’s all pretty much lore; just like what we know of Santa from “Santa Claus is coming to Town”, etc., it’s pretty fantastical… and both seem like stories that pre-date Christian traditions.

befana + re magiThe most common story I encounter is that la Befana lived along the route the Magi took to the Natvity Scene. In this version, they stopped at her house seeking food and shelter, but she wasn’t feeling sociable and sent them away. Later, la Befana has a change of heart and sets out to find the Magi, and to accompany them to find the Christ Child. But by now, she’s too late to catch up, and she never finds the child. So, as the story goes, to this day, at this time of year, she still travels the world, leaving gifts for every child, lest they be il Gesu` Bambino (the Baby Jesus).befana festa poster7

 

What does the Befana bring to good children? That depends on the traditions (and budget) of the household where they live. Most just get little treats, candies and gizmos, similar to what St. Nick (from whom Santa Claus derives) puts in stockings of kids whose families observe St. Nicholas Day (Dec. 6), but some lucky kids get iPods and other such fancy loot!

 

befana di personaMost cities hold special events and parties dedicated to celebrating la festa dell’Epifania/la Befana (Epiphany holiday). People play bingo and cards, and gather outdoors in the piazze (squares) for festivities, including music, processions, live nativity scenes, open-air markets,  live appearances by la Befana, and more. You’ll find links to a few of these happenings below. befana parade

And while it’s mainly a celebration for the kiddies, you’ll find adults getting in on the action, too, dressing up and parading around as la Befana in carne e ossa (in the flesh).  The picture here looks like a sort of Befana bunny hop!

befana calze

Feeling festive? Perhaps you want to get into the act, too. This could be a great time to adopt a fun new tradition, with kids and family or friends and housemates. All you need is una calza (a sock or stocking) – any type, even a long sock will do – and some little treats!

Buona Befana!

Have you ever heard of or celebrated la Befana? Comments welcome!

Epiphany/Befana celebrations in Italy:  Roma-Milano-Napoli  |  OstiaBaby Befana Party

 

Posted in Italian Customs, Italian Holidays, Italian Vocabulary, learn italian | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 8 Comments

Lentils for Luck – Recipe for a Prosperous New Year | Lenticchie per fortuna – Ricetta per un prospero anno

Note: This post is in Italian interspersed with the approximate English translation.

gold coinsSecondo l’usanza italiana, se ti vuoi assicurare di un nuovo anno fortunato, a Capodanno  devi mangiare le lenticchie. Piatte e tonde, assomigliano le monete, e per il fatto che aumentano in misura durante la cottura, simboleggiano soldi e crescita finanziaria. Di solito in Italia le lenticchie si preparano in forma di una gustosa zuppa che viene mangiata nel periodo di Capodanno.

According to Italian custom, if you want to be sure to have good luck in the new year, you must eat lentils on New Year’s Eve/Day.  Flat and round, they resemble coins, and due to the fact that they expand in size during cooking, they symbolize money and financial growth.  In Italy, lentils are usually prepared in the form of a tasty soup that is eaten during the New Year period.

Ecco la mia ricetta – e` deliziosa e abbastanza facile.  Buon appetito e prospero anno !

Here’s my recipe – it’s delicious and pretty easy.  Good eating and prosperous new year!

Zuppa di lenticchie | Lentil Soup

Persone: 4  |  Preparazione: 30 minuti  |  Cottura: circa 2 ore   |  Difficolta`: medio

Serves: 4  |  Preparation: 30 minutes  |  Cooking time: about 2 hours  |  Difficulty: medium

Ingredienti | Ingredients  [Italian | English]lenticchie-2

300 gr lenticchie verdi secche | 10-11 oz dry green lentils

1-2 cucchiai olio d’oliva | 1-2 tblsp olive oil

1-2 cucchiai di burro | 1-2 tbsp butter

peperoncino q.b. /quanto basta | red chili pepper, to taste

1 cipolla tritata | 1 chopped onion

1 costola di sedano tritata | 1 stalk of celery, chopped

2 gambi di porro tritati | 2 bulbs/stems chopped leeks

1 carota tritata | 1 chopped carrot

1 bicchiere di vino bianco secco | 1 c./8oz. dry white wine

1 pomodoro piccolo tritato | 1 small chopped tomato

1 foglia di alloro | 1 bay  leaf

8-10 bicchieri/2-2 ½ litri d’acqua | 8-10 c./2-2 ½ Qt. water

Dadi di brodo vegetale q.b./quanto basta (circa un dado per litro d’acqua) | Broth cubes, as needed (approx. 1 cube per quart of water)

Sale e pepe, q.b. / salt and pepper, to taste

Qualche rametto di timo fresco | A few sprigs of fresh thyme

Facoltativo: 300 gr cotechino o altra salsiccia, | Optional:  10-11 oz. “cotechino”, a traditional Italian pork sausage, or other sausage

lenticchiePreparazione  |  Preparation

Sciacquate le lenticchie e mettetele in ammolo in acqua fredda per circa 2-3 ore.

Rinse and soak lentils in cold water for approx. 2-3 hours.

Riscaldate l’acqua con i dadi di brodo e tenetela coperta a fuoco lento finche occorre.

Heat the water with broth cubes and keep covered at a simmer until needed.

Trascorso il tempo di ammollo, potete iniziare a preparare la zuppa di lenticchie.  In una pentola grande rosolate  cipolla, porro, sedano e carote tritati nel burro e l’olio d’oliva.

Upon completion of soaking time, in a large pan sauté the chopped onion, leeks, carrot and celery in the butter and olive oil, until onion is transparent.

Aggiungete le lenticchie, ben scolate dall’acqua di ammollo,e la foglia di alloro, girandole 1-2 minuti mentre assorbono il burro, l’olio ed i gusti della verdura.

Add lentils, having drained the soaking water, and the bay leaf, stirring 1-2 minutes as they absorb the butter, oil and flavors of the vegetables.

Aggiungete e fate sfumare il vino bianco, girando il tutto a fuoco basso.

Add white wine and stir the mix while sautéing so wine absorbs into lentils as it evaporates.

Aggiungete il pomodoro e girate a fuoco lento.lenticchie-3

Add tomato and stir while sautéing.

Aggiungete sale e pepe quanto basta.

Add salt and pepper to taste.

Aggiungete circa la meta` del brodo e coprire la pentola. Controllate, girate ed assaggiate di tanto in tanto, aggiundendo del brodo in piu` quando occorre ed evitando che le lenticchie si attaccano. Attenzione che le lenticchie ultimate siano al dente e non stracotte.

Add about half the broth and cover the pan. Check, stir and taste every so often, adding more broth as needed to avoid lentils cooking to the bottom of pan.  Take care that the finished lentils are “al dente” and not overcooked (when ready, lentils should be soft but not mushy).

Aggiungete del sale quanto basta.

Add salt as needed/to taste.

In una padella a parte, fate rosolare le salsicce. Abbiate cura a non stracuocerle. Alla fine della cottura la pelle sara` diventata biancastra. Dovrebbero essere tenere e non dure.

In a separate pan, steam the sausage(s). Be careful not to overcook. When finished, the casings will have turned white. They should be tender, not tough.

Quando le salsicce saranno ultimate, toglietele dalla fiamma e togliere la pelle.

When sausages are cooked, remove from heat and remove casings.

capodanno-buon anno 2014Quando la zuppa di lenticchie sara` ultimate, toglietela dalla fiamma, togliete la foglia di alloro, aggiungete del timo fresco e mescolate.  Affettate le salsicce, mettete le fette in cima alle porzioni di zuppa ed aggiungete un rametto di timo fresco.

When lentils have finished cooking, remove from heat, remove bay leaf, add the leaves of several fresh sprigs of thyme and mix.  Slice the sausages, put slices over the top of the portions of lentil stew, add a sprig of thyme and serve.  Buon appetito!

Avete mai mangiato la zuppa di lenticchie?  Mangiate qualche cibo speciale a Capodanno?  | Have you ever eaten lentil soup?  Do you eat any special foods at New Year’s?

Posted in italian cooking, Italian Customs, Italian Food, Italian Holidays, italian recipes, Italian Vocabulary, learn italian | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment