Today's advent book has got me thinking about traditions.
One of my favorite family traditions is to make Christmas goodies throughout the month of December. While it's sometimes an arduous task (there have been years that we had 30+ unique treats for our Christmas feast!!), it is always exciting to reveal the efforts after squirreling them away for the entire month. It used to frustrate me so much to spend hours each afternoon baking and decorating only to have my treasures boxed up and frozen as soon as I was done ... Nowadays, it feels more like banked effort. And it's fun to pull things out and share if you have surprise company.
(I'm going to be honest, the only "company" we ever had was grandma and grandpa lol ... but if you live in a family with four starving boys, a cookie can go a long way towards keeping the peace!)
This year in particular I have also been drawn to our Scandinavian traditions, specifically Hygge:
Onwards to the book review!
Day 03 –
The Legend of Old Befana – Tomie dePaola
From the book’s intro:
“Every year, on the Feast of the Three Kings, on January 6th,
Old Befana visits all the children of Italy and leaves them candies, cookies,
and gifts. It is said that she is searching for the Christ Child.
There are many stories about Old Befana and how she began
This is one of them.”
Old Befana is known throughout her town as a grouchy and unkind old woman; she spends her days sweeping her house; baking goodies for herself; and being generally unpleasant to her neighbors. Hrumph! One night, Old Befana is awoken by a blazing star in the night sky! The miraculous aspect is lost to her, and she is exceptionally grouchy the next day, complaining of a sleepless night. When a procession of kings arrives and asks Befana for directions to Bethlehem, Befana begins to wonder what has happened. So after sweeping her house and baking her treats one final time, Old Befana sets off on a journey to find the Child King herself … in fact, she is so determined to find the child, that an angel chorus grants her the gift of flight! This is how she manages to bring goodies to Italian children on January 6th; she is still searching for the child, and doesn’t know where he might be!
I am so fond of Christmas stories like this … what a great opportunity to learn a legend from another culture! DePaola also gives us a moment to self-reflect; this story centers on the miracle of Christ’s coming, but revolves around a character who is too self-absorbed to realize what has happened. Like Old Befana, I think many of us can relate to the feeling of chasing after something just out of reach, maybe spending too much time on things that don’t matter much in the end. Books like this are a great lesson in “don’t miss the point!” Afterall, there is always time to be kind.
I also have to admit that dePaola is one of my favorite illustrators ... his style is soft and inviting, filled with fanciful pattern and color reminiscent of illuminated manuscripts.