For the first time ever, St. Anthony of Padua Parish Music Department and the Little Italy Neighborhood Association are working together to reintroduce the traditional Italian culture of Christmas. They’re hosting a big Epiphany celebration Sunday the 6th which highlights Italian tradition.
Joseph Cannavo, who is working close with organizers, says few people know the origins of the Italian Christmas celebration. According to Cannavo, America has greatly influenced the traditions of Christmas, but in Italy it’s a very somber occasion with mass and food. In fact, Cannavo says gifts weren’t apart of it. The Italian tradition of the Epiphany celebration, which is usually observed on January 6th, was actually the more popular day in terms of gift giving.
Meanwhile, the Sunday Epiphany celebration which will be at St. Anthony of Padua in Wilmington will be dedicated to the story of La Befana. Italian traditions like La Bafena were way before the Saint Nicholas era.
“La Befana comes off the word Epiphany, her story is she was a mean witch type person who spent her days constantly sweeping and baking cookies,” said Cannavo. However, when the three wise men came through her town in search of baby Jesus, Cannavo says she turned into someone different after turning them away. “She had a change of heart, and so she loaded her sack with cookies and goodies and began her search for Jesus and giving gifts where there were children in hopes of finding the home with Jesus.”
The celebration at St. Anthony’s will also feature Italian cuisine as well as “Zampognari di Filadelfia,” the area’s only Italian Shepherd Bagpipers so people can learn that connection to the Italian Christmas. The event starts at 3p.m.
“Its going to open the door to more knowing about this particular celebration which has been lost because of the commercialism but also taking away a desire to learn more about the culture, more about what is to be an Italian American and what our four fathers really were like,” added Cannavo.
St. Anthony of Padua now has the largest Italian festival in the entire Delaware Valley region.
Want to know what an Italian bagpipe sounds like? We found some of their work. You can click on it below.