Christmas comes but once a year, but it’s a little known fact that in Italy, children get two bites at the panforte. Another festival, with huge similarities to the festivities on the 25th December, occurs just twelve days later. On the night of the 5th January, Italian children hang up their stockings at the end of the bed and go to sleep having been warned not to open their eyes if they should hear noises in the middle of the night.
When they awake in the morning, they will find their stocking filled with chocolates, sweets, and often presents, if they’ve been good. If they’ve been bad they will find lumps of coal. But it’s not that Santa Claus is so busy with the kids in other countries that he takes twelve days to get to Italy. This time the gifts are bought by a peculiarly Italian character, an old, old lady known as la befana.