Our snow is gone and tomorrow we will take down much of our Christmas things but some will stay 'til Candlemas Day and some will stay till St. Valentine's Day.
But for tonight the Manleys and the Stones will be joining us for a Three Kings Feast!
After the festivities tonight, Ol' Befana will come. Poor Ol' Befana, have you heard her story?
She was a grandmotherly type with no grandchildren. Living on the edge of this quiet Italian village at a curious cross of three roads. One day, with loaves of bread baking in her oven, she was doing what she always did several times a day, sweeping. She swept her hearth, her steps , her walk, all the way to the road most times. On this day, as she neared the road, a young messenger boy ran up to her and stopped her from sweeping. If he had known her he would have known that was a brave thing, a crazy thing.
"Do you know if this is the way to Bethlehem?" he asked of her, pointing down one of the roads
"I have no idea," she curtly replied, annoyed at his pertinence of stopping her.
Just then a beautiful procession came down the same road that the messenger boy came from.
"What's all this nonsense?" she said waving her broom.
"Why, my master, and some others are out to find the King of all kings. He is born the King of the Jews this day in the town of Bethlehem and my master wishes to go and worship him."
"Posh. How do they know this?"
The young messenger explained that his master, a wise man from a land in the East, studies stars. It was an incredible star that drew them to their quest. His master and others like him had studied the star and their studies of the star told them, that this king was the greatest King of all.
"Your master listens to stars?" She snorted at the boy whisking her broom on his feet. "Be gone with you and all this nonsense, I have no time for it, I have no time for you, I have no time for a baby king and grown men who listen to stars." She shook and up went her broom shaking into the air in the direction of one of the roads.
The young messenger boy looked wide-eyed at her and ran back to the procession, spoke to the lead horseman and the whole company turned and went down the road that the old woman's broom had pointed. For it seemed that they had gotten slightly off course but now they were assured that they were headed in the right direction.
"Harrumph," the old woman pushed her broom some more, rather disturbed at her uncontrollable waving. She continued to sweep right out into the road as if to sweep the memory of the procession away.
She stopped when she got to a heap that the elephants had left. "Disturbing, that is what that business is, disturbing."
She turned on her heals and walked to her full ovens to pull out the bread. She was tired, she had had quite a day and she determined as she pulled out the last loaf that she would sit in her "company" chair, the soft one her husband, her Agapito, made for her just before their baby boy was born. She rarely sat in it, saving it for the company that never came.
She set the last loaf on the table, dusted her hands and sunk into the few cushions she had that she kept in the chair. Before she knew it she was fast asleep. Or so she thought because surely she was dreaming.
She was dreaming that she was following a star. The star was singing to her, Ol' Befana! It sang of her pain. It sang of how her fear would be understood. It sang how she could begin again, have cool water to drink and filling bread to eat everyday of her life. It sang of her pain and how it could be healed. It sang of this baby. A baby King. Not just for other Kings, not just for a certain people but for her too. It sang to her to come.
She woke at that thought, she could not manage a trip right now. She looked sleepily up and then she saw it. The star, shining ever so brightly as it did in her dream, it was shining through the window, the one right across from the chair.
"My, I have slept a long time if the stars are already out so brightly," as she said this she whirled around to her open door for she heard a familiar sound, the hoof beats of Ol' Biagio's cart horse as he went on his evening rounds.
It was true, it was only evening, the light outside was not yet twilight, she turned back to the star in the window. It was so bright! It was miraculous. No star she had ever seen had been that bright, and she was an old woman who had seen many stars.
She realized then that what that messenger boy had said about the star was true, that her dream was true. She must go see this baby, he had come for her too. She would join the kings and find him. Worship him. But she had nothing to give to him to show him her esteem.
Then she thought of the mother. It was hard being a mother, she had been a mother once, very briefly yes, but she had known what it was like to be a wife and a mother. "A new mother is too tired to cook and take care of the home, I will make them some rolls and cakes to eat."
She immediately went to work and soon had a huge basket full of cakes, and breads to nourish the Baby King's family.
"New mothers have no time to keep the fire lit, I will take some coals in a pot to relight the fire, they will keep the breads and cakes warm too." She packed up all these things, wrapping two shawls about her shoulders she quickly prepared to be gone. As she got to the door she saw her broom.
"I will take my broom, young mothers do not have strength to clean and a Baby King must have a clean place." She grabbed up her broom and headed down her steps but she couldn't resist to sweep her walk one more time, in case someone stopped by while she was out.
When she got to the road she did not see any signs of the procession but she knew which road they took. She began to walk briskly down that very same road. Her neighbors watched curiously as the eccentric little neighbor went down the street. They had seen many strange sites today and now her came reclusive crazy Ol' Befana. She was packed down with things as if she were taking a journey, yet she carried her broom in her hands.
"Funny Ol' Befana," they thought. "Who does she bake and clean for? No one has ever been invited to her home and she has not been in any of ours. I wonder where she is off to?"
Soon she was out in the open countryside, she began to walk faster and faster, hoping to find the procession so that she could travel with them. But she didn't see them anywhere.
"Oh, you silly old woman you. You wasted too much time and now they have left you behind."
She began to weep as she walked faster and faster. She so wanted to see the very King the star sang of. She could almost hear the song. If she wept quieter she heard it louder, but it was not just the star anymore.
The sky was full of angels and they sang:
"Glory, Glory to God in the highest
and on earth peace to all men,
for unto them a Savior has come,
born in Bethlehem,
born of a virgin,
that all men might come to Him.
A gift to all men. For all time."
She ran on faster and faster, weeping all the way, Then suddenly she was in the air, her running feet had lifted her up. She was lifted up and she saw where he lay, the sweet baby, the Savior, her Savior. Ol' Befana dried her old tears and began to weep new tears, not of sorrow but tears of the new promise, tears of joy.
She was excited for she had seen the child, in her heart she had seen the child, she would know him anywhere. It didn't matter anymore if she made it to where he lay. The baby she wanted so badly to see had shown her what he was going to do for her, for all men. It was shocking, but her heart was now full of love.
To this day she continues to fly in the sky, carrying little cakes and breads to every hearth that is open.
She is happy to give like she had always wanted to but never could. Now she has the strength to see other people's children and not be so sad about her baby.
And every once in a while when she comes across a household that is overwhelmed she stops and sweeps their hearth and leaves a broom.