This is a Blissemas post - which means that if you comment on it you will be entered into a draw for a Kindle Fire 7 pre-loaded with kinky lit and hot romance! What's more, if you comment on all the posts on the Blissemas blog-hop, you will be entered multiple times! (Oo-er!)
La Befana, the Christmas Witch
Pictured above are two Christmas tree decorations I bought in Italy a few years ago. Yes – both are Christmassy, and have nothing to do with Hallowe’en!
“But … the witch! On a flying broomstick!” you might be saying. Well, there’s an Italian Christmas story that you may not have heard before…
Once there was a widow woman called Befana who was very tough despite her years and ever so house-proud. She couldn’t stand to leave her home untidy. One day she was sweeping out her kitchen when three men rode up and stopped to ask for food and drink. This she gave gladly, because she was a generous woman, but she could see that these were not ordinary beggars or travelers. They wore crowns and their eyes were bright with the vision of their purpose.So that’s an Italian folk story for you. In my latest novel, The Prison of the Angels, my characters Milja and Egan are actually in Italy in the run-up to Christmas – in Rome to be precise – but they don’t meet Befana … just several archangels ;-) My heroes are trying to stop the imminent Apocalypse, btw.
“We are three Wise Men from the East,” they told her. “And we’re traveling in search of the Christ Child who was promised. Come with us to find him!”
Now Befana was tempted, because she loved children and longed to see the Christ and give him a gift. But she said, “First I have to finish sweeping my floor and tidying the house. I can’t leave it in a mess. What would people think?” So when the Wise Men rode away she stayed behind, and only at the end of the day did she lock up and set off after them, her broom in her hand and a basket of cakes, to seek the Christ Child.
But she never found him, from that day to this. From that day onward she has wandered the world with her broom, giving out gifts to every good child (on the 5th of January, the night before the Feast of the Kings) just in case one of them is the Christ.
My Blissemas Kiss Present to you all is this little excerpt from that book:
Excerpt from The Prison of the Angels:
Egan grabbed my shoulders. “You okay?”
I nodded, still gulping oxygen. We had arrived, it seemed, exactly where we’d been aiming for. The little piazza, barely more than a junction of three alleyways. It was daylight, and it was drizzling; a cool rain that seemed like a balm after the emptiness, and a joke in comparison to Ireland’s scything, horizontal precipitation.
My legs wobbled as he pulled me to my feet.
“Please, let’s not do that again,” he said.
“I’m not sure I could.”
“It worked though.” He laughed. “And if we survive any of this, at least I’ll be able to boast that I’ve literally been to Hell and back.”
My stare must have been questioning.
“C’mon, Milja,” he said, shouldering his bag. “Where did you think your short-cut was taking us?”
Nobody seemed to have witnessed us, so we gathered ourselves and slipped out onto the main street. We pushed across stationary traffic and onto the Ponte Vittorio Emanuele II. The flow of pedestrians was that way too; a vast crowd heading toward Vatican City just over the water. Many were praying out loud. Everyone looked nervous. I glanced up and wondered at the strange look of the clouds overhead; they were clotted and writhing, like spoiled milk.
“Where’d all the people come from?” I gasped, bumping along at his elbow.
“Rome’s filling up with pilgrims for Advent; they come for the Papal Blessing. I’m guessing they’re heading for St. Peter’s Square right now. Happy birthday, by the way.”
“You’re a December baby, aren’t you?”
Today’s date hadn’t even occurred to me. “How do you know?”
“I had a whole dossier on you to memorize when I was sent to Montenegro, remember.”
My mouth flapped a bit. I did remember. Of course, the Catholic Church had been keeping tabs on my family for years. “Birthdays weren’t a big thing in my family,” I said. “Our patron saint’s day is seen as much more important.”
The Archangel Michael. “One who doesn’t like me.”
Egan stopped abruptly, pulling me into the lee of a statue’s plinth. He put a warm hand around the back of my neck, inside my hood, and pressed into me for a sudden kiss that took me wholly by surprise and made my heart flutter and sing. “Happy Birthday,” he whispered.
“Well, I am a bit worried how it will all end,” I said in a small voice, “but at least I’m spending it with the man I love.”
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