December, 18 2019 ( Updated December, 18 2019)
Italy’s own Christmas story: The Good Witch 'Befana'
Now, we’ve all heard of Father Christmas (or ‘Babbo Natale’ in Italian), but the Good Witch, ‘La Befana’?
In Italy, this legendary lady is as much a part of the Christmas period, as the jolly bearded man! The friendly old hag brings gifts to good girls and boys on the holy day of Epiphany, and is adored and celebrated across the country. Read on to discover the tale of La Befana...
The Befana comes by night,
With her shoes all tattered and torn,
She comes dressed in the Roman way,
Long live the Befana!
Once upon a time…
The story goes that long, long ago, an old witch called Befana lived alone, preferring her own company. She was a gentle spirit and amongst her many talents, was an excellent housekeeper. She would be forever sweeping the floors, baking and singing all day long. One day, three wise men passed by. They were on their way to Bethlehem. The three wise men were following the brightest star in the night sky. They wanted nothing more than to find baby Jesus Christ, so they could present him with gifts. They asked Befana if she’d like to join them on their quest. She wanted to yet politely declined, explaining she was too busy with her chores. It was not long 'til she came to regret her decision!
More than 2,000 years later, Befana is said to visit children 12 days after Christmas on the 6th January, for the Epiphany. She is said to fly on her broomstick across the land, to seek out all the children. She enters their homes down the chimney. Deserving children are left a wonderful present by Befana (just in case they happen to be Jesus Christ). The gifts are often chocolates and sweets. Naughty children though, are left a lump of coal! La Befana is often depicted as covered in soot and flying on her broomstick. Families traditionally leave out a plate of food and a glass of wine for her. Italians believe she's able to sweep away the problems of the year with her broomstick, to make everything ready and welcoming for the year ahead.
Celebrate La Befana, like the Italians!
Each year, Urbania (in Le Marche region) hosts the National Befana Festival. Join in and savour live music, costumed street parades, dancing and celebrating the broomstick flight of the Good Witch!