But this is also a festive day as we celebrate the Epiphany (Befana in Italian). Nowadays, this is no longer a very popular holiday but through the 1970s it was the most important of the Christmas feasts in Italy. My parents, for instance, used to get all their presents on January 6 rather than on December 25.
From a strictly religious point of view it still a very significant moment as it represents the liturgical end of the Advent-Christmas season and this is why our story starts from the Vatican.
One of the key events of the day is the historical parade that you can admire along Via della Conciliazione, the main, broad road leading to St. Peter’s square from the Tiber river. This year it is organized by the town of Leonessa, a mountain resort not too far from Rome, tucked in the very middle of Italy.
This town has a consolidated tradition of Renaissance parades, the Velvet Palio, featuring up to 600 figures with beautiful historical clothes. The parade takes place in the morning and goes through Via Della Conciliazione between 10:30am and 11am accompanied by horses, a band and living postcards. Free of charge!
BEFANA IN ACTION
If you want your kids to see a real Befana in action, there are two good destinations to hit. But let’s first see who the Befana is and how she looks like. The Befana is an Italian folk figure that flies on a broomstick. This ugly, old woman delivers sweets and gifts to children on the night of January 5.
Her headquarters in Rome are in the Piazza Navona market which actually sees a Befana giving out little presents and candies in the middle of the square during the final day of the city’s top Christmas market.
The other place you can consider is Rome’s Music Auditorium which has recently started a Befana event. On the 5th at 4pm and 6pm and on the 6th at 11:30am there is a music show for kids dedicated to this old lady.
Other happenings for your children are Roma Kids, a huge indoor playground at Rome’s Fair, open on both January 5 and 6.
A good alternative are the Epiphany-related activities organized by the Zoology Museum on January 4, 5 and 6.
OTHER EVENTS & SHOWS
A living and walking Nativity parade can be seen in the Esquilino borough on January 4. It departs at 10:30 from the Basilica of the Holy Cross in Jerusalem.
Dance lovers will enjoy the traditional Nutcracker ballet at Auditorium Conciliazione on January 4 (evening), 5 & 6 (both in the afternoon). A more modern show is Notes de la Nuit on January 5 at the Rome Opera Theatre.
Finally, some music. The final concert of the Choir Winter Fest will be held on the 6th. Free concert by two choirs. At 4:30pm.
The Conciliazione Auditorium, near the Vatican, hosts the Rome Symphonic Orchestra for a classical music concert on January 5 and 6.
Many other shows and concerts are listed in our post about the Christmas holidays entertainment in Rome.
Last but not least the Winter sales start on January 4! This also means that all shops will be open on Sunday the 5th and many on Monday the 6th.