According to tradition, children dressed-up as “fcén” (old men) use to go from house to house to offer gifts and recite “zirudelle” (rhyming poems in Bologna dialect) in exchange for a small culinary consideration.
The initiative is made possible thanks to a group of private citizens that hosts the fires in their properties.
The origins of Befana, a kindly old woman who visits all the children throughout Italy the night before the Feast of Epiphany to fill their stockings with candies as well as presents, is closely linked with pagan folk traditions: The “Vècia” represents the “old” year because, once it has come to an end, it will be burnt. But right at the moment when the year ends, it is ready to be born again. That’s why people usually say “Epiphany takes all the feasts away”: after 6 January, farmers used to start sowing again in the hope of a good harvest. From this point of view, presents used to be of propitiatory value for the year to come.