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Three Kings' Day

It's widely known that my preferred holiday is Three Kings' Day, observed throughout Europe, especially in Catholic countries, on January 6th. In numerous nations, it's recognized as a public holiday, free of work, including in Poland. Despite the core narrative of the three magi remaining quite consistent, each country exhibits its unique national and regional interpretations and customs associated with this celebration. For instance, in Poland, several cities host processions of the three kings on that day, proceeding through the main streets towards the central square. This year, I traveled to Italy to observe how Italians commemorate this occasion.

Referred to as Befana, this holiday is linked to a benevolent Christmas witch who, on that day, travels on her broom down chimneys to deliver sweets and small gifts to children or coal to those on the naughty list. In this regard, Befana shares similarities with St. Nicholas, who, on December 6th, bestows sweets and small gifts upon Polish children.

But what is the origin of the Befana figure? A legend closely tied to the nativity story suggests that, while en route to visit baby Jesus, three kings visited Befana's dwelling. Despite offering them food and lodging, Befana declined their invitation to join their journey, citing an abundance of household chores. Realizing her error, she promptly loaded her basket with assorted gifts and embarked on the journey. Despite following a guiding star, she struggled to find her way and instead left gifts at various homes for children.

Below is a brief photo report from Pesaro, where I participated in the Befana festival.

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