In Italian folklore, Befana is an old woman who delivers small gifts and candies to children on Epiphany Eve. She is usually portrayed as a witch: she flies on a broomstick and she gets into the children's houses through the chimney. Traditionally, Italian children could find a lump of "coal" (actually rock candy made black with caramel colouring) among candies, if they had behaved badly during the year. The Befana is celebrated throughout Italy on the 6th of January, the Epiphany’s Day.
In the city of Agliate near Monza, every year on the evening of January 5th, the population celebrates the arrival of the Befana with a big festival - theatre play on the Lambro river. On the night of the Befana, wooden structures of different sizes come alive around the river – fires burn and music and sounds call Befana, who finally arrives on a boat.
This play aims to safeguard and give new life to those childhood myths that are important rites of passage in people’s lives. It also aims to raise awareness on the protection of natural environment, especially the river Lambro, and on the maintenance of the relation between nature and the people living in the area.
Within the project “Lessons from Less Heard” the aim is to realize co-creative laboratories for the preparation and organization of the festival: interdisciplinary techniques of production and the use of different materials, tradition and innovation merge together, resulting in the creation of mobile structures flowing along the river and riverbanks. The design laboratory is open and has a fluid structure; it is a permanent debate. No authority takes decisions and allocates tasks. The laboratory generates solidarity, group work and consciousness of common efforts to reach the goal. It’s based on research and experimentation.
Participants of the laboratories are both member of the local communities, especially families and children, and asylum seekers and refugees, newly arrived in the city. The aim of the co-creative laboratories is to give to asylum seekers and refugees the chance to give their own contribution to the festival, from the choice of the theme of the festival to the theatre play on the river Lambro. All activities of the festival of the Befana sul Lambro are organized in the partnership between Consorzio Comunità Brianza and Commissione Cultura Alternativa (CCA).
More about the Befana-festival : Befana sul fiume Lambro - Mito festa nella natura ad Agliate (befanalambro.net)