The ABCD North End / West End Neighborhood Service Center (NE/WE NSC) hosted their annual La Befana celebration last week, with nearly 50 seniors from the neighborhoods coming together to celebrate this holiday tradition.

Thanks to Donato Frattaroli of Il Molo, Nancy Frattaroli of Artu, and Taste of the North End, along with Donato and Nancy’s children and staff, the seniors enjoyed a made-from-scratch feast of salad, pasta and chicken cacciatore, which consisted of a rustic braise of chicken, aromatic vegetables and tomatoes. The red and green veggies were a perfect holiday accent to the cheery Christmas tree in the corner, which was bursting with colorful decorations in silver, gold, red, blue and green.

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“What a wonderful family place you have here,” remarked Nancy Frattaroli of Artu, as she turned back to readying the meal in the center’s kitchen. Indeed, the drop-in center was cozy and warm and the center’s seniors, volunteers and staff received attentive service from the Frattaroli family and staff who prepared lunch. All guests lingered over the generous spread of coffee and pastries to pass the rest of the afternoon. Advisory Board member Victor Brogna delighted the NE/WE NSC with his trumpet playing of all the traditional Christmas favorites.

The story of La Befana is a combination of Catholic tradition and Italian folklore. If you are a child in Italy who loves Christmas and laments the ending of the festivities, you have one more holiday to look forward to – the Epiphany. From the Greek word “to manifest,” the Epiphany marks the first appearance of Christ’s birth for the Gentiles. In accordance with Christian dogma, on January 6, the twelfth day of Christmas, the three Wise Men arrived at the manger bearing gifts for Baby Jesus. That day, which marks the end of the holiday season, is also the day of the Befana, a good witch that fills children’s stockings with sweets or coal.

According to tradition, before arriving at the Holy Creche (manger), the three Wise Men stopped at a shack for directions. An old woman holding a broom opened the door. The Three Wise Men invited her to come along, but she declined, citing household tasks of sweeping and cleaning as the reason. Later that night, after having refused the invitation of a shepherd she met along the way (who some recognize as the Fourth Wise Man), she saw a great light in the sky. Armed with gifts for Baby Jesus as well, she decided to catch up with the three. As bad luck would have it, she got lost and never found the manger. Since then, on the night between January 5th and 6th, hoping to find Baby Jesus, the old lady flies on her broomstick bringing with her gifts to children. The legend says that the good ones will have their stockings filled with candies, while the not so good ones will receive coal.

Thankfully no one at the ABCD North End/West End Neighborhood Service Center received coal this year! Without the hard work of the Frattaroli family and staff, the holiday party would not have been possible. The NE/WE NSC extends its deepest thanks to them, enabling the center to provide a day of cheer, socialization and warmth for neighborhood seniors.

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