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
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
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'
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
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
This article provides an overview of our La Befana. Lots
of free, facts and information for kids, children and teachers!
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Christmas, have a happy and prosperous