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Lesson Transcript

Hello, and welcome to the Culture Class- Holidays in Italy Series at ItalianPod101.com. In this series, we’re exploring the traditions behind Italian holidays and observances. I’m Becky, and you're listening to Season 1 Lesson 3, Epiphany.
Have you ever heard of Epiphany or the day of the Befana?
Epiphany, like Christmas, is a Christian religious festival, which celebrates the visit made by the Magi—the three great kings of the East—to Christ twelve days after his birth. The festival itself is a national holiday.
In this lesson, we’ll see how Italians celebrate this day, and why Italian children like it so much.
Now, before we go into more detail, we have a question for you. Do you know the meaning and origin of the word "epiphany?"
If you don't already know, you’ll find out a bit later. Keep listening.
According to an Italian belief, on the night between January 5 and 6 a woman called Befana, who is ugly and old and rides on a broomstick, goes into every home to fill the socks of good children with candies and sweets. She also distributes coal to those who have misbehaved. Kids really like this Italian feast, because even if they get a bit of coal, they still always receive a lot of candies and chocolates. This belief also explains why Epiphany is more commonly known as the day of the Befana.
On this day, after opening the socks filled with sweets, Italians get together with their families to enjoy lunch together. The most common dishes are sweets, including focaccia of the Epiphany. This is a cake that has a fava bean placed inside it; the one who finds this dry bean will have very good fortune throughout the year.
The afternoon of this day is also an opportunity to go out for a walk around the historic centers of the city, where small markets selling sweets are held.
For Italians, the Epiphany is also a bit of a sad day, because it’s the last day of the winter holidays. One of the most common activities is putting away all the Christmas decorations, such as the Christmas tree and the nativity scene.
As an interesting side note, in Venice, the Befana travels on a boat! In fact, every year on January 6th a boat race of the Befana is organized, led by athletes dressed as Befana who compete on the Grand Canal.
Now it's time to answer our quiz question-
Do you know the meaning and origin of the word "epiphany?"
It is a word with Greek origins that means "appearance" or "revelation." The holiday, then, marks the day when the incarnation of God was said to be revealed in the person of Jesus.
Well listeners, how was this lesson? Did you learn something new?
In your country, is there a character similar to Befana?
Please leave a comment telling us at ItalianPod101.com!
See you next time!