La Befana tops the month’s festivities. The friendly witch is celebrated on the Epiphany and all of the youngsters who have “been good” can expect gifts, while naughty children receive pieces of coal. The La Befana legend originates in Urbania, a town in the Le Marche region.
Castiglione di Garfagnana (Lucca) - Feast of the gift. A celebration combining the elements of religious devotion and folklore at which the town’s mayor offers gold, incense and myrrh to the church.
Jan. 6 - In Faenza (Ravenna) - the Night of the Biso. This is a salute to the new year in the Piazza del Popolo where mulled wine and local food specialties are offered to the well-wishers. At midnight, a dummy called the Niballo is burned on a bonfire to signify the banishment of all the cares of the past year and to be a good omen for the upcoming one.
The Epiphany in Mezzojuso (Palermo), Sicily is a traditional celebration, according to the old Byzantine rite. The most significant aspect in the ceremony is the blessing of the water.
Premosello Chiovenda (Novara) Carcavegia. This very old folk celebration culminates with the burning of two dummies called al vece and la vegia – the old man and the old woman.
Ci Castello (Catania, Sicily) - The Feast of San Mauro. The town’s patron saint, San Mauro, is recognized as the “young man” by the townspeople and they celebrate this feast day by carrying the statue through the streets and launching balloons in the air.
Jan. 16-17 - Intorciata in Novoli (Lecce). A procession in honor of Sant’Antonio held in the evening is followed by the lighting of the focara, a huge bonfire of dry grapevines. At the end of the festivities, everyone plucks a glowing ember and some ashes from the fire for good luck.
Later in the month, the Feast of Sebastiano takes place in Aci Reale (Catania), Milis (Oristano) and Ortona (Chieti). In Aci Reale, there is a procession of the faithful who, barefoot, sing hymns as they bear his silver image through the streets.
There is a carnival in Viareggio (Lucca). This is one of Italy’s most traditional and popular carnivals. Every Sunday during the celebrations, there are parades of gigantic mechanized floats based on allegorical themes. Awards are granted for the best floats.