It has been a busy night tonight for this old woman called La Befana. On her broomstick she had to bring all the children that have behaved well this year, little presents and candy! That means that, this morning, a lot of children where happy finding their sock filled with sweets and gifts.
The celebration of La Befana is quite similar to Santa Claus or the Dutch Sinterklaas. Children hang their sock close to the chimney and leave a bit of food (normally an orange) and a glass of wine for the good old witch. On the night of 5-6 January the Befana visits all the houses on her broomstick and if the children behave well, she will leave some presents or candy or both. Via the chimney she will fill the socks and of course eats and drinks what the children left for her. For those children who didn’t behave well she will leave a lump of coal or dark candy.
The children don’t really know what Befana looks like, as she doesn’t want to be seen. She will give a thump with her broomstick to those who see her. But one says that she wears a black shawl, carries a bag (filled with presents and candy), is covered in soot (because she enters the children’s houses through the chimney) and is often smiling.
The night before children will sing the “Befana-song”, obviously hoping that they will get lots of presents and candy:
” The Befana comes by night
With her shoes all tattered and torn
She comes dressed in the Roman way
Long life to the Befana! “
One of the legends about La Befana tells us that just before the birth of Jesus, the Befana was approached by the three Kings to ask her the way to find baby Jesus, but she didn’t know this. After she provided them shelter for the night they asked her to help them find him. At first she didn’t want to but later she had a change of heart. They say that she went on her broomstick to find them. She never did and up to today she would still be searching for them.
Another legend tells us that Befana was just an ordinary woman who lost her child. When Jesus was born, due to her grief, she thought he was her son and visited him giving him presents. Baby Jesus was very happy and gave a gift in return: she would become the mother of all the children in Italy.
Happy Befana to all of you!!!