ROME, Jan. 5 (Xinhua) -- Almost half of Italian families plan to hang a stocking to celebrate the Epiphany, a national holiday falling on Jan. 6 that marks the end of the Christmas festivities, according to a study by Coldiretti farmers association on Sunday.
In Italy the festival is also known as La Befana, after a legendary old woman who delivers gifts on her broomstick.
She is said to visit children on the eve of Jan. 6 to fill their stockings with candy if they have been good, or a lump of coal if they have been bad.
According to the Coldiretti study, 47 percent of Italian households are hanging stockings for the Befana to fill with gifts for their children, including chocolate, candy, dried fruits, nuts, and home-made cookies.
Grownups also take advantage of the Epiphany holiday to exchange gifts acquired during the winter sale season, which kicked off throughout the country on Saturday.
"This last chance to celebrate drives the value of gifts purchased during the year-end festivities to upwards of 5 billion euros (almost 5.6 billion U.S. dollars)," Coldiretti wrote.
Since the Epiphany falls on a Monday this year, almost 3.5 million Italians have traveled to holiday destinations over the long weekend, Coldiretti added in a separate report.
According to the report, 48 percent of holidaymakers chose one of Italy's "cities of art" such as Florence, Venice, and Rome as their destinations, while 38 percent headed to the mountains, the countryside, or locations with thermal baths for a last chance to relax before the work year kicks off again on Tuesday.
Perhaps the most striking of these is the Cavalcade of the Magi in Florence, in which some 700 people decked out in Renaissance costumes will ride on horseback through the historic city center.
The Cavalcade of the Magi goes back to the 15th century, when it was first organised by the Medici family which ruled Florence during the Renaissance, according to the city's website.