Monday, 6 January 2014

I commend Befana to you all

La Famille Grit has this story. We stole it from a confused Italian and made it our own. But I utterly recommend it to you.

Use it, and let it become for you, as for us, the final nail in the Christmas festivities.

Yes, this little ritual story-making will finish off celebrations nicely. With it, you can attend to what the offspring wanted all along, but were too dense to tell you. Then was it any surprise, on present-opening time, how it was all a sad disappointment? Like this year. When gritlet after gritlet opened up their wrapped present in great hope of finding dangerous weaponry (not that they actually told Santa they wanted knives), but received instead one pair of socks, a tin whistle, a Teach Yourself Geometry book and a Kit-Kat with one bar removed (and no apologies about that).

Never mind! We can be redeemed! Thanks to Befana (or Befano, depending on how I remember).

Then here is our telling.

The three wise kings set out looking for Baby Jesus. They carried presents of gold, frankincense and rum. (Yes, it is like that. I told you it is our own.)

On the journey the three kings became tired and emotional after drinking all the rum. In this state they would never steer their camels on the right path! Indeed, they were soon in danger of falling down a mountainside and plunging to a certain death. The only solution was to stop their journey and hope the star stayed put while they slept it off.

Luckily! They came upon a peasant hovel, the humble home of Befana, an incredibly old and kind-hearted woman. She must have been, right? Because here are three men with hats and camels stinking of rum who bash at her door demanding a free night's sleep. Let us rest there and have a glass of sherry.

In the morning, the three wiser men got up to a delicious breakfast of gruel and donkey pee (which for a peasant is a very fine spread indeed). Then, with ne'er a thank you for her kindness, they mounted their camels and made ready to leave. Befana (kindly, old, wise) asked them, 'Whither are you going?' They became very rude and surly. One snorted We are off to see the Baby Jesus with our gold and frankincense, so what is that to you?

Befana overlooked their rude manners, but in very humble way asked, 'Can I come with you? I would very much like to see the Baby Jesus, and I have this carrot.'

The three kings became hoity-toity. They said things like 'Shut up you old woman, we are much too important to talk to you with our camels and our hats. We are certainly not waiting for you, old crone.' Then they left. (Happily the star had hung about a bit and waited.)

Now let us pause there to have another glass of sherry and contemplate the folly of men who are supposed to be wise.

Well, Befana was bloody annoyed and rightly so. She had given up her floor and her morning glass of donkey pee and for what? For some damn ungrateful blokes on camels with pointy hats, solidified tree sap, and a glass of gold (which you are sure is glitter painted on a jamjar because he would have been mugged by now if it was real gold). Cheapskates.

So Befana set off behind the rude and rather foolish men thinking I'll show them! I shall take my special present to Baby Jesus, which is even better than my carrot, and it is not fake gold, nor a bit of tree sap dolled up to make you think it's special.

That's what Befana does. She takes the special present and walks for many miles over hills and dales and mountains and rivers and swamps (you can make up this bit, add crocodiles and killer ants and poisoned apples and everything, depending on audience participation).

Then she arrives at the stables.

Oh dear! Baby Jesus has gone.

But Befana (wise, old, extremely shrewd) is not deterred. She leaves her special present in a magical place (maybe a tear in the time-space section of the stables, or a free-floating fragment in the time dimension, dunno, depends how many sherries I've had), and - get this - the special present is still there! Or here! Depending on where it is!

And that, gritlets large and small, is Befana's present, the last present, the missing present, which will magically appear under the magic tree on the magic morning i.e. January 6th (or 5th), the date we take down the tree and put it in the box for another year.

Now let us reflect how the wise men were foolish!

They bought unreasonable and inappropriate presents for Baby Jesus. They would have bought a tin whistle and Teach Yourself Geometry if you'd let them. But rum, solidified tree juice, and gold? What is a prophet going to do with gold if they go on about the virtues of giving away all material possessions? Duh.

But consider this about the old woman. Befana is wise. She brings you the present you wanted all along! In your case, my darling gritlets, knives.

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