Epiphany Tradition in Sicily – religious customs


Epiphany by definition is a sacred festivity honouring the birth of Jesus Christ with the visit of the Three Kings bearing gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh for the Son of God. TheCatholic church and other Christian rites also celebrate various kinds of Epiphany tradition. In case you are on the island around the first and second week of January, here are the best places to observe traditional customs during this event.

Epiphany of the Byzantine Rite – January 6th

Sicily was once ruled by the Eastern Romans which include the religion of Byzantine rite on the island. Hence, some practices originated from them are still observed until today in the Sicilian culture. One, in particular, is the Epiphany of the Byzantine Rite which instead celebrate the baptism of Jesus in the Jordan River. The Greek symbolic ceremony takes place at Piana Degli Albanesi.

Official Website of the town of Piana degli Albanesi

Epiphany’s farmer and degustation event in Bolognetta Palermo – January 6th

Bolognetta is a town in Palermo province which celebrates the Epifania Nella Bolognetta Contadina with natural farmer produce. There is also a degustation event. Hence, visitors can taste Bolognetta’s agricultural products. These include cheeses such as ricotta, chickpeas and beans, local-made bread, honey, and salumi.

Official Website of the town of Bolognetta

Shepperd Life of Nardu in Santa Elisabetta Agrigento – January 6th

Pastorale di Nardu a Santa Elisabetta is probably without a doubt the most Sicilian way of Epiphany tradition in Sicily. It is a street comical and satirical presentation of old pastoral life. At the same time, it depicts work in the fields with donkeys, horses and sheeps included in the parade. The Sicilian beliefs revolve around the simple-minded Nardu and how he found the holy family of Jesus before the three kings.

Official Website of the town of Santa Elisabetta

Christian processions and Presepe Vivente in Sicily

Both residents and visitors of the local parish observed traditional Christian procession too. In case you happen to be in the area of any small villages, we suggest joining. Walking with the locals in solemnity regardless of belief is a unique experience. A grand Epiphany ceremony in Sicily is the U Ritu a Palma di Montechiaro in Agrigento. Another one is Processione del Signore a Barcellona Pozzo di Gotto in Messina. There is also a Living Nativity presentation called Presepe Vivente. The town of Calascibetta in central Sicily performs a really breathtaking take of this event around January 4th and 5th. While in Sant’Angelo Muxaro, anyone can join the Ricotta festival.

Ancient Three Kings Day in Cassaro Syracuse – January 5ht or 6th

three kings epiphany tradition sicily

Cassaro is a Middle Ages village in the province of Syracuse. It celebrates the traditional Tre Re sulla via dell’Olio, an annual ancient tradition. for the Three Kings who visited Jesus. Simultaneously, on the same date as Epiphany. It presents the myth of the three wise men by all means. The myth suggests that Melchiorre, Baldassarre and Gaspare found and visited the newborn Jesus bearing gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh. The village also organizes food and wine tasting events introducing authentic Hyblaean cuisines.

Official Website of the town of Cassaro

Il Mercatino dell Epifania in Sicilia

Aside from going to church, major cities also hold Epiphany fairs. The street markets showcase the most stunning of its kind together with a few food stalls. There is a wide selection of items. Shop while enjoying the magnificent view of the major squares or town centres

Festa della Befana – January 6th

During Epiphany is also the Christmas Witch Day. Adults gift children sweet treats inside a sock. If they are nice (bravi), they are in for a special treat and coal for the naughty ones(monelli). For women, men jokingly greet them ‘Auguri’ during the Christmas Witches Day. Please do not try this as it is quite offensive for some. It is not the word Auguri but the joke behind it comparing them to witches.

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