… old woman with candy!
Very similar to the more well-known Italian holiday tradition of La Befana, on the eve of the Epiphany (January 5) La Vecchiarella, “the little old crone” historically played by a man, visits homes in the rural Umbrian borgo of Monterubiaglio. Dressed in white and carrying a distaff in her hand, she is accompanied by singers chanting words along the lines of: “And the old lady comes, Comes among us, Us who are her children, We see her so beautiful…”
Although La Vecchiarella looks a bit cranky and frightens the littlest of children, most forgive her terrifying appearance in hopes of finding her at their doors bearing sweets for good behavior and not coal for their naughtiness.
In exchange for offers of prayer and masses, La Vecchiarella promises that the Holy souls in purgatory will gain their freedom and ascend into heaven. Not completely altruistic however, she is quite happy to accept cookies and wine in exchange for her gifts of sugar and redemption. After all, she needs to keep up her energy for the hard work ahead – visiting each and every child in Monterubiaglio before the start of the evening’s feast of grilled sausages and big bonfire in the town’s main piazza.
La Festa Della Vecchiarella is a time for the community of Monterubiaglio to come together, share a meal, and pass down this lovely tradition to the next generation. Auguri!