La Befana All round the world every country has various customs and traditions which have evolved over time, including those in Italy. This article provides facts and information about the stories and myths relating to La Befana. Who is La Befana? La Befana is the Italian equivalent to Santa Claus who Italians call Babbo Natale! Santa Claus and his sleigh, pulled by magical flying reindeer, fly around the world on Christmas Eve stopping at the homes of children to deliver gifts ready to be opened on Christmas Day. La Befana is a good witch who flies on a broomstick to deliver gifts on the night before Epiphany (January 6). There are many similar legends surrounding the two characters!
La Befana - Flying on a broomstick Children in Italy hang up stockings in anticipation of the visit from Befana. Befana is a kind, but ugly, witch who flies on a broomstick and carries with her a big black bag filled with sweets and gifts for children. La Befana enters the houses through the chimneys and leaves the gifts and presents inside the old socks that are hung the night before!
What does La Befana look like? La Befana wears an old coat, or black cloak, mended with colorful patches and old worn out shoes. La Befana is often depicted as being dirty and sooty as she has been down so many chimneys delivering presents! A translation of a poem about the legendary witch is as follows:
The Befana comes by night With her shoes all tattered and torn She comes dressed in the Roman way Long life to the Befana!
She brings cinders and coals To the naughty children To the good children She brings sweets and lots of gifts.
La Befana at Christmas in Italy - Coal for the 'naughty' children Italian children write a gift wish list on notes or letters and hide them up the chimney for La Befana to find. The witch fills the stockings with gifts, candy, nuts and fruit. A 'lump of coal' is also left based on the idea that all children would have been naughty! The 'limp of coal' is black rock candy, called 'carbone' that actually looks like pieces of coal!
La Befana at Christmas in Italy - Processions, Parades and Befan Dolls Italian children enjoy great processions and parades featuring Befana who is accompanied by her husband Befano. They wear tattered peasants clothing of the Middle Ages and have a sooty appearance. Both Befana and Befano are depicted with hump backs and carrying staffs. The parades are accompanied by loud music and celebrations. Images of Befana, Befana Dolls, are displayed in the windows of houses as a sign of welcome. After the parade the dolls are often burnt as effigies and there are firework displays.
The Story of La Befana The story and Christian legend of La Befana tells of the quest of the Magi, or Three Wise Men to find the birthplace of the 'King'. On their journey they take lodgings at the house of Befana as she had the reputation of being a great house keeper. She treated them well and invited her to join them on their journey. She declined because she was too busy with household chores. Later, after she had finished the cleaning, she started to search for the Three Wise Men and the baby Jesus. She was too late to catch them up and could not find them although she looked frantically for them. She was in such a hurry that she was still holding her broomstick. She ran so fast that she began to fly on her broom. But she still could not find the Wise Men or the infant Jesus. Legend tells that she continues her search, looking in the houses and homes of all the children.
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