Shopkeepers and ordinary citizens left gifts to the policemen standing on their platform to direct the traffic, almost as a recognition of their service to the city but - who knows - also with the secret intent to ingratiate them. The Milanese panettone was a favorite gift, wine and spirits as the artichoke liqueur advertised by Ernesto Calindri "against the wear and tear of modern life", and many other products typical of modern times.
The Befana of the Policeman
From the 1950s, the years of the economic boom, a nice custom linked to the Befana festivity took hold. The generous old woman, in addition to bringing gifts to good children, was lavish with gifts also to the Urban Police of Italian Municipalities.
On the day of Epiphany, from the early morning, in the main squares of Italian cities, towns and villages, the policeman in charge of the manual traffic regulation was surrounded by a pile of presents, mostly Christmas cakes, wines and spirits.
The Befana del Vigile, however, did not have long life. Within a few years, as it had appeared, the custom, opposed by many for various ethical reasons as well, left the stage of the national life without a real explanation, maybe because it was a reflection of the poverty of those decades. Photographs and films in black and white give us back the sense of that too early canceled ritual.
After 60 years, in many small and large places the Policeman's Befana is increasingly being re‑introduced in a historical version, with the aim to revive the post‑war atmosphere, with parades of vintage vehicles in their original restored editions, with the drivers also strictly in vintage clothing. However, the gifts brought to the city police are of course offered to charity.
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