buona Epifania / buona Befana

Discussion in 'Italian-English' started by Maltese, Jan 3, 2008.

  1. Maltese Senior Member

    Malta. Maltese and English
    Prima di tutto voglio augurare un Felice Anno Nuovo a tutti!! :D

    My question this time concerns the Epiphany and the Befana.

    Would an Italian wish another person Buon Epifania? I'm not so sure. Maybe there are other expressions.
    Also, I know that the Befana is a character associated with children, but I was wondering whether one can still send a gift to an adult for Epiphany? Would it be considered an insult?

    Basically I would like to send a gift to someone in Italy (work related but on friendly terms) and send a little card with the gift which says 'Buon Epifania' or something similar.

    Thanks in advance for all your help.
  2. Emma Neve

    Emma Neve Senior Member

    Ciao Maltese e buon anno!

    I've never heard of cards sent for the "epifania/befana". That's something we don't do.
    Be very careful if your friend is a "she"... It could be considered an insult, or a rude joke.
    I think the safest thing for you would be to wish your friend a happy new year. You can still send her/him something I guess... a little present, if you want. It's unsusual for the new year, but it could be appreciated nevertheless...

    Ciao Emma

    PS I thought your thread had been closed, I was wrong! :eek:
  3. MünchnerFax

    MünchnerFax Senior Member

    Italian, Italy
    Ci avete preso per perfidi tiranni. :p

    No, we definitely don't wish buona Befana/Epifania unless it's a joke among friends. Not so rude, actually. But still a joke.
  4. Maltese Senior Member

    Malta. Maltese and English
    Thank you both for your help. I will play it safe and send a belated Christmas gift then. I don't want to risk being rude to a work related person!

    Thanks again..you saved me from making a gaffe! :eek:
  5. Emma Neve

    Emma Neve Senior Member

    Well Munchner...
    I would still recommend a guy not to wish "buona befana" to a woman!!!

    PS You guys prefid tyrants? naaah :D
    Who said that?!?!?!
  6. Maltese Senior Member

    Malta. Maltese and English
    I can now see how a woman might be offended if you wish her 'buona befana' because she's not pretty at all right!! :>

    The more I think about it the more I want to thank you for saving me from making a huge gaffe. At least I'm a woman and I guess it would have been worse if it came from a guy...on second thoughts it's probably just as bad. Meno male i consulted you first!! :p
  7. Emma Neve

    Emma Neve Senior Member

    That's interesting, because we very often use "befana" to offend a woman.
    It's just a synonym for "racchia/acida/antipatica" plus, of course, "brutta".
    And you can use it all the year round!

    I'm glad we "saved" you Maltese ;)
  8. Maltese Senior Member

    Malta. Maltese and English
    I had no idea it was an insult. Good to know so I avoid it at all cost now :)
  9. MünchnerFax

    MünchnerFax Senior Member

    Italian, Italy
    Ok, but let me point out once more it's just an innocent (and not uncommon) joke if you use it between close female friends of yours. It's not that you are calling them ugly :warn:bitch. ;)
  10. Emma Neve

    Emma Neve Senior Member

    I agree Munch, it's definitely not so strong...
    Nothing to do with "ugly bitch!":warn:
    Still, would you only use it as a joke? Maybe you could, but only on the 6th of January! Otherwise I think you can call someone "vecchia befana" in a (very) derogative way...
    And I would never ever consider it "that funny", even if used by a (close) friend or a relative.
    I know I can be very touchy, but trust me, no woman would take it only as a joke!

  11. V132 Senior Member

    Hi everybody, sorry, but I do not think that BUONA EPIFANIA is offensive. Here in Sardinia we use to wish Buona Epifania on the 6th of Jan. I think there is a big difference between Epifania and Befana.
    As tradition suggests "The Befana" is an ugly old lady who brings presents (or coal :)) to children riding a broom on the night between the 5th and the 6th of Jan. It's something linked to folklore, you know, as Babbo Natale is. If you say a girl or a woman "Befana" it could be offensive, because it is like saying "you're ugly as the old lady is". "Epifania" is totally different. For Christians it is a religious feast as important as Christmas is.
    Taken from Wikipedia:
    Epiphany (Greek: επιφάνεια, "appearance" or "manifestation") is a Christian feast intended to celebrate the "shining forth" or revelation of God to mankind in human form, in the person of Jesus.
    So, you can say "Buona Epifania", but be careful on using "Buona Befana". If it is addressed to a friend she smiles or laughs, if she is not this could be offensive.
    For futher information click on this:

    Bye bye :)
  12. Emma Neve

    Emma Neve Senior Member

    I agree Elsor. But I was talking about something else: namely, the term "befana" used as an insult/joke, all the year round.
    Anyway, where I live (Veneto) we don't have the same tradition. We tend not to wish "Buona Epifania".

  13. V132 Senior Member

    I know, it depends on where you live and the traditions of your country (and belief). With my reply I was just answering to Maltese's question and trying to explaining the difference between Befana and Epifania...this was her/his doubt, right? :)
    Thanks, bye
  14. Emma Neve

    Emma Neve Senior Member

    Sì Elsor, assolutamente. Infatti io resto sempre piuttosto sorpresa quando scopro come possono variare le nostre tradizioni da regione a regione. A volte, da provincia a provincia. E adesso che, per motivi di "cuore" :D;) sto spesso a Milano, mi accorgo che anche alcuni termini che io do assolutamente per scontati vengono invece usati in modo diverso. Un esempio: box e garage per il locale di un appartamento dove si mette l'auto.
    Ciao e Buon anno!
  15. V132 Senior Member

    :) esatto...oppure borsa o busta per indicare il sacchetto di plastica dove riporre la spesa...(busta da noi e borsa a Trieste). ;)
    Tanti auguri di buon anno anche a te e...a voi :D
  16. Emma Neve

    Emma Neve Senior Member

    By the way Elsor, if you give a look at the title of the thread, you'll see that one option was the possibility to wish "buona Befana".
    And I'm sure you will agree that that's a big no-no, especially if it's formal! ;)
  17. V132 Senior Member

    That's what I said..I agree with you!
  18. ToscanoNYC Senior Member

    New York, NY, USA
    Italian & English -US (bilingual)
    In my area of Tuscany (Pisa/Livorno) it is very common to wish Buona Epifania (and more informally also Buona Befana) to friends, relatives and acquaintances. In general we say "ti faccio gli auguri di Buona Befana", or something similar. Children do also receive gifts, just as on Christmas day. When my parents were children (in the '40s) they used to receive gifts only at Befana, on Jan. 6, not for Christmas. When I was a child (in the '70s and '80s) I used to receive gifts both for Christmas and Befana). As many of you remember, the Italian government tried to suppress Epiphany as a national holiday in the '70s, but people were not happy about it (Italians are generally fond of the Epiphany day) and after a few years the holiday was reinstated.
  19. V132 Senior Member

    That's true...we also say Buona Befana...but it is more pert...Buona Epifania is rather more common...:)
  20. petrus.cornelius.silvanus

    petrus.cornelius.silvanus New Member

    An elegant solution, a bit old fashioned is to say "happy Easter" "buona Pasqua" because the Epiphany is, from a teological point of view, the first Easter (=passage) of the year.
  21. curiosone

    curiosone Senior Member

    Romagna, Italy
    AE - hillbilly ;)
    Più che "Buona Befana", in Emilia-Romagna sento più spesso dire "Auguri per la Befana", e a Carnevale (in alcuni paesini come Forlimpopoli SEGAVECCHIA — Emilia Romagna Tourism e Casola Valsenio http://www.terredifaenza.it/eventi_proposte/eventi/ev_sagre/pagina1-082.html ) hanno ancora la tradizione (che risale a tempi pagani) di bruciare la "Segavecchia" (a bonfire).

    Comunque personalmente ho sempre preferito "Buona Epifania" (o lo lascio in inglese: "Happy Little Christmas" as my mum used to say), because for me the Feast has always been associated with the Wise Men bearing gifts.

    At any rate, while it is perhaps less used in Italy (where the openly atheist population is growing), it is (traditionally) a day for gift-giving (usually to children), so I would not find it offensive or in appropriate to give or eceive a gift - I'd just be careful to avoid any mention of "Befana". ;)
  22. tsoapm

    tsoapm Senior Member

    Emilia–Romagna, Italy
    English (England)
    This is news to me. How is it a passage? It’s certainly a manifestation/appearance, since that’s what Epiphany means. All Sundays can be considered as Easter, this much I am aware of, and probably all masses too, in a sense.
  23. sorry66

    sorry66 Senior Member

    English, England
    L'Epifania tutte le feste porta via, poi arriva san Benedetto che ne riporta un bel sacchetto!
  24. redhairedgirl

    redhairedgirl Senior Member

    I say "Buona Befana" to friends, relative and to my colleagues: it's colloquial, but used, at least in Liguria. I see here in Rome is quite used too. It's not offensive at all; it's a joke when a male friend tells you "Buona Befana", because it usually implies he's mocking you for being old or ugly. "Buon lavoro" is also used, because it refers to the job of delivering coal or sweets to the children overnight. Quite tiring, indeed :)
    I never say "Buona Epifania", but it could be because I'm not religious.

    (Am I writing English? I'm tired - you know, I had to work overnight :p)

    Last edited: Jan 6, 2016
  25. Pugnator Senior Member

    Neapoilitan (Naples) / Italian (Italy)
    Alcuni augurano Buona Epifania" agli altri, non molti ma alcuni lo fanno. Di solito si danno regali solamente ai bambini nell'Epifania, molto spesso sopratutto negli anni passati (Sto parlando dal secondo dopo-guerra agli anni 80) delle aziende come la Centrale del Latte di Roma davano dei giocattoli agli operai in modo che li dessero ai propri figli, ma non credo che sia ancora fatto oggigiorno.
  26. curiosone

    curiosone Senior Member

    Romagna, Italy
    AE - hillbilly ;)
    When I first came to Italy (many years ago), there was no Santa Claus. Or rather, my Bolognese friends had heard of him, but told me that he wasn't an Italian tradition, and that gifts (at least for children, as Pugnator mentions) were brought by the Befana. Then my friends' children had both Santa Claus (but not in the magical way I remember, as a child), and the Befana, but the Befana was more special (since it belonged to their parents' Christmas memories).

    I still find the entire Befana tradition odd, as the only thing that's left of the story of the Wise Men is the gift-giving. But I always thought that (maybe) the Befana was connected to the Baba Yaga legend.

    I suppost I (personally) continue to prefer "Buona Epifania" (if I'm going to say it in Italian), because for me the story of the Magi has deep meaning (and not just religious meaning), while the Befana (for me) does not.
  27. MR1492

    MR1492 Senior Member

    Newport News, Virginia
    English -USA
    Interestingly, where I grew up was heavily populated by immigrants and many came from Russia and Greece. We had several Greek and Russian Orthodox churches in our little town. Because those two churches never adjusted their calendars, Christmas for them was held on the Roman Catholic Epiphany. So, we never had a "Happy Epiphany" but always wished people "Merry Russian/Greek/Orthodox Christmas." I always thought that was normal and didn't realize until I moved away that it wasn't!


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