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Buon Natale a Tutti: Italian Christmas Folklore

by Maryann Pisano on December 18, 2012

Panettone Bread

The most popular legend is the story of a nobleman named Ughetto who fell in love with the daughter of a baker. Her name was Adalgisa, and she was very beautiful. However the family of Ughetto was not pleased to learn of his affection towards the bakers daughter, and they refused to allow the two to marry. Therefore Ughetto and Adalgisa would meet under the moonlight sky in secret.

It so happened that the bakery boy at Adalgisa’s father’s bakery had fallen ill, thus causing Adalgisa to work even more hours than she was already putting in. Soon, it became near impossible for the two love birds to find the time to meet. Ughetto, frustrated that he could not spend time with his love, decided to work at the bakery incognito as a replacement for the bakery boy who had falling ill. Unfortunately however, the bakery had hit some hard times as another bakery had opened nearby and was taking away customers. As a result, they sold less bread and was making very little money. Things were not looking so good.

Ughetto, in his creativity, took it upon himself to make some changes to the bread by adding more butter and sugar. However, there was no money to buy the needed butter so he sold some of his hawks. (He was the hawk breeder of the Duke Ludovico Maria Sforza). With the money he received, he was able to buy the necessary butter and sugar. The bread was a success and soon the business started gaining more customers.

Happy to see that Adalgisa was in better spirits, he added some candied citron and some eggs to the recipe. This too only enhanced the bread. During the upcoming Christmas season, he added some raisins to make it even more festive. Soon the bread was the talk of the town. He had not only invented a new popular and wildly tasteful bread which everyone in town praised, but as a result he and Adalgisa were soon able to be married and live happily ever after.


la Befana

Christian legend had it that Befana was approached by the biblical magi, also known as the Three Wise Men (or the three kings) a few days before the birth of the Infant Jesus. They asked for directions to where the Son of God was, as they had seen his star in the sky, but she did not know. She provided them with shelter for a night, as she was considered the best housekeeper in the village, with the most pleasant home. The magi invited her to join them on the journey to find the baby Jesus, but she declined, stating she was too busy with her housework. Later, La Befana had a change of heart, and tried to search out the astrologers and Jesus. That night she was not able to find them, so to this day, La Befana is searching for the little baby. She leaves all the good children toys and candy (“caramelle”) or fruit, while the bad children get coal (“carbone”), onions or garlic.

Source:  Wikipedia 

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