January 6th is in Italy a common holiday. In Italian it´s called “l’epifania” and in the Dolomites it´s called “Santaguania”. On Santaguania Eve the priest ordains the holy water and salt during the mass and then local women bring the holy water home.
Some time ago, people believed this water helped prevent diseases and thunderstorms. The holy water was spread in the house and in the stable as well as in the air in order to intimidate the witches who cause thunderstorms. The village children on Santaguania Eve surround the fields and spread the holy water in order to stimulate a good year in grain and hay. The kids wore pants made of wool and treenail shoes hard as anything else.
On Santaguania in the evening screams and shouts were heard outside. It was the witch who visited the children and took away the bad boys. She gave the good boys some sweets and disappeared within seconds through the chimney. She was a small lady with a potato nose and wore some old rags.
One last tradition on Santaguania was that young men visited their girlfriends to pick up the leaf they ordered two weeks in advance. The leaf was put on their hats in order to show off to others and they wore them proudly.
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