And even this year these holidays are over - as my grand-mother used to say with a sigh of relief. After New Year's celebrations I am always disappointed that Christmas has come and gone so quickly but then I feel better thinking that there is still Epiphany to celebrate. Or better, that I, and my friends, celebrate.
This is a mystery to me actually. Why don't the English celebrate the 6th of January? What's wrong with that? What in fact puzzles me the most is the fact that they all wait until that very day and then just before Epiphany take all their Christmas decorations down. Why not the 3rd, or the 4th, or even the 2nd if they are that eager to bring their home to normality, pretending it never happened? Strange. But there are a lot of strange things about the English. In a good way, of course.
As always we had our annual celebrations of La Befana. Now, a little bit of history.
Befana is a distorted version of Epifania (a real distortion I must admit!) and the story wants it that on 5th January the Three Kings, Melchior, Caspar and Balthasar, or Wise Men (who if you ask me weren't that wise after all considering that they managed to be late and get lost) asked a pretty old woman (mind old but not pretty), who was sweeping with her broom the entrance hall, where the Baby Gee was lying. The woman indicated to follow the star.
So the Three Kings asked her if she wanted to join them but she refused. Having a change of heart, she tried to follow them but could not find either the Three Kings or Baby Jesus. So in doubt she brought sweets that she distributed on her way to all children she met in case one of them was the real Baby Jee.
Isn't it a sweet story? So for La Befana children, and adults, receive sweets. Mind, only the good ones because the naughty children get coal! I have been a good girl of course, so I received lots of nice chocolate and liquorice.
As our home is a real Auberge Espanol, we decided to combine several traditions. The Spanish tradition of leaving a glass of water and a piece of bread outside of the door for the thirsty and hungry camels, the telling of a story in exchange of coins, and little stockings filled with candies and hidden in the tree.
The other tradition is to have Crostini scuri (dark tartines). It is essentially chicken pate' but with a Mediterranean twist having capers and anchovies. Here is the recipe.
300g chicken liver
5 sage leaves
2 tsp washed capers
2-3 anchovy fillets
1/4 onion or shallot
1. Chop finely the onion or shallot and cook it until golden in a pan with a couple of spoons of oil. Then cook the liver until all the pink colouring has gone. Raw liver is not tasty!
2. Once the liver is cooked, remove it from the pan and put it in a mixer together with the other ingredients. Blend well until it forms a smooth paste.
3. If necessary, add more capers or sage. It has to lose that strong liver flavour and acquire a slight sharpness. Season to taste.
4. Use it as a spread on grilled or toasted bread slices (baguette or campagnard).
The festive atmosphere has really gone and a thick layer of fog is enveloping us.
I go now to say good-bye to the tree before we undress it and throw its carcass into the fire to be burnt. How sad. I might go and play a Requiem for the occasion.