Saints and traditional characters coming from Italian folklore
Every child knows Santa Claus, an old man dressed in red with a springly and good expression, brings gifts for Christmas; but maybe you don’t know that before him or rather living in the same period of him, there are other characters in Italian folklore that bring gifts to good and coal and ash to naughty children.
The first character coming from traditions is Saint Lucy, in Italian Santa Lucia. She has a special place in our heart also because she’s the patron saint of Tavarnelle Val di Pesa and her celebration day is the 13th of December, just a little before Christmas time and so we are already in the Christmas atmosphere!
In Tavarnelle traditions, the celebrations for Saint Lucy open Christmas period. In this period, you smell ricciarelli and panforte in town, together with the smell of the fireplace inside the house and you can hear the rustle of gift paper, in town the Christmas air arrives bringing cold (not a lot this year) and in the day of the Saint a big fireplace is located in a small square and the parade arrives on horses in a solemn atmosphere.
Saint Lucy represents a character between the old pagan deity and the introduction of christian religion. She represents the goddess of earth fertility and introduces the new year coming. She represents hope in the incoming future and she is the saint of this moment of transition between old and new, night and dark. In Tuscany traditions, Saint Lucy brought gifts to good children and blinded naughty ones.
Although Saint Lucy is not bringing gifts anymore, there is another person that from the traditions survives from the arrival of Santa Claus and this is Befana!
This old woman, riding a sweep in the dark night between 5ft and 6th of January, is something in the middle between a witch and a fairy.
So before Santa Claus these two ladies rule in kids’ world of gifts and prizes, of candies and sweets!
Now only Santa and Befana remain for children, but Tavarnelle celebrates its saint as a light in the dark and so here in our village you can find the three characters together as in the traditional world.
We wish you a Merry Christmas and we hope you’ll receive a lot of good gifts, from Santa Claus, Saint Lucy or Befana as you prefer.