Christmas day is gone, the New Year has arrived but the traditional Christmas holiday season in Italy lasts through Epiphany. In Italian tradition only on the 6th of January the Holidays end, and on that day all over the country there are rituals celebrating what is called "Epifania". The Feast of the Epiphany, a national holiday in Italy, and the tradition of La Befana are a big part of Italian Christmas celebrations. La Befana is an old, ugly witch traveling on a broom bringing gifts to the kids and... if they were not behaving well she would deliver pieces of coal (the coal is now made of sugar...). Epiphany commemorates the 12th day of Christmas when the three Magi (Wise Men) arrived at the manger bearing gifts for Baby Jesus. Above is an image from last January of The Magi, Wise Men (Gasparre, Melchiorre, Baldassarre, bringing gold, incense and myrrh to the newborn Jesus) in a parade happening every year on January 6th in Milan.
Another ancient ritual is performed on that day in Cividale del Friuli, a charming town an hour from Venice and soon to become part of UNESCO World Heritage.
On January 6 in a context of great solemnity, a Mass is celebrated in the cathedral of Cividale: "The Mass of the great sword" (or Messa dello Spadone) and for this unique occasion the mass is celebrated in Latin.
The Deacon appears with the plumed helmet on his head, a drawn sword in his right hand and in his left a precious Gospels of the twelfth century embossed and gilded.
The investiture ceremony recalls the one when the patriarch received from the hands of the Emperor the title of feudal lord of the whole region.
After the "Mass of Spadone" the historic commemoration of the entry in the city of Patriarch Marquard von Randeck on July 6, 1366 takes place outside the cathedral.
Nobles, ladies, soldiers, knights, archers, maids, falconers, standard holders, priests, monks, hermits, the steward, the herald, the Executioner, the dean, the Captain of Cividale, the Patriarch, all appear in costumes in the principal square and later around town.
The whole event is accompanied by music echoing ancient melodies and sounds typical of the Middle Ages which create a beautiful and fascinating atmosphere.
You may also like to read:
An Italian Christmas
The end of a decade
An Italian New Year's Eve
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