An ancient ritual where an old woman brought the new year as a gift, prosperous and brimmingly fruitful and sweet. The ritual was to burn an effigy of the Befana on a bonfire and my Grandmother took the tradition really seriously!
She would get us to prepare a perfect dummy-Befana with the offcuts from pruning the vines as an aid to ignition, and all us excited kids would watch her burn.
The new wine would be tasted, we’d eat sweets and dried fruit, I adored dried figs filled with almonds. Our faces illuminated by the bonfire flames, Granddad, serious and concentrated, would spit a mouthful of wine on the embers, giving back to nature a drop of her fruit.
Ancestral rites and joyous parties with a sense, a history and a moral.
Today we often celebrate foolish idols, useful only to useless consumerism.