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epiphany and befana
January 5th is an important night for Italian children: The Befana, a frightful witch, will mount her broom and fly through the sky to fill their stockings, with candy if they've been good, and with coal if they've not. Though now the kids just get their stockings on Epiphany, until quite recently they received almost all of their gifts on the 12th day of Christmas. If you think about it, the practice of giving a gift on Epiphany makes sense,since that's when the Magi arrived at the manger. And the Befana? There are a number of stories; according to one, she refused the Magi hospitality, then changed her mind and tried to follow them. But they were gone, so she still seeks the Christ Child every Epiphany.
Her arrival is often celebrated with the first batch of a traditional Carnival pastry known by a variety of names, including Cenci (rags) in Florence and Frappe in Rome; Ada Boni, who borrows Pellegrino Artusi's recipe, uses the more poetic "Lover's Knots." They are very pretty when carefully made, so she is probably right. To make a batch you will need:
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