It wasn’t always like that. In the past, in fact, the children did not wait for Santa Claus but rather the "Marantega" (from the Latin mater antiqua) now better known by the name of Befana, which in the night, between 5 and 6 January brought them some candy or toys... For the naughty children instead, a few pieces of coal and ash.The origins of the legend of the Epiphany are not clear, it certainly comes from the popular Christian tradition.
It is said that on the journey to Bethlehem to the Baby Jesus, the magi Balthazar, Caspar and Melchior, asked for directions on the way to follow to an old lady along the way, who pointed them the way. The magi invited her to continue with them, but she refused. When the 3 Magi left the old lady changed her mind and began to look for them, bringing with her a bag full of sweets. He began to knock on all the doors of the houses giving every child a sweet, hoping to meet the Baby Jesus.
On January 6th, to celebrate the Epiphany, do not miss the traditional "Regatta delle Befane", a costume regatta along the Grand Canal. The Regatta starts in front of Palazzo Dolfin (Rialto) the residence of the last Doge and current seat of the Bank of Italy.
It was not tradition to prepare the Christmas tree with a thousand lights and decorations. In Venice, in every house, of rich and poor, was prepared the NATIVITY SCENE to represent the nativity with the imagination of young and old.
When I was a child, there was not all the technology of today, houses were made with cardboard or wood, we used a mirror for the pond and went crazy to place the bonfire of the shepherds... It all depended on where the red light of the colored light thread was located :-)
In San Marks' Basilica or in the Frari Church you can admire two beautiful representations of the Nativity. In Burano instead emerges from the waters an evocative nativity craft.
Every year during the Christmas season in Campo San Polo an ice skating rink is set up and the city begins to light up with lots of colorful lights. It is really impressive to walk through the city to St Mark’s Square and admire the wonderful Christmas tree.
If you are in Venice and if you want to treat something Made in Venice to your friends, here you could find some ideas:
A pair of Furlane that you can buy from PIEDATERRE
A good bag of zaeti and buranei, typical biscuits of the Venetian tradition. You can buy them from Rosa Salva, Tonolo, Dal Mas. Inside the chocolate Shop Dal Mas you can find many Christmas chocolates of various shapes.
A Venetian Mask to Bottega dei Mascareri
A precious gift in Murano glass from Rialto79
MyAQUAbottle an artistic handmade glass bottle
Some typical Burano lace from Fabris near the Rialto Bridge