The tale of Santa Claus has been around for centuries, yet there is another festive figure that predates even the jolly man himself. The story of La Befana can be traced back as far as the 13th century as the Italian Christmas Witch that visits your home on January 6th.
The story of La Befana is a religious one. Originating from the Greek word epiphania, meaning epiphany, it refers to the story of the Three Magi visiting a newborn Jesus Christ.
According to the story, the Magi stopped at an old woman’s house to rest while on their journey. She (La Befana) welcomed them, fed them and let them rest in her home. The Magi asked if she would like to accompany them to see the newborn king, but she said she had too much housework to get done. But when the Magi left, La Befana changed her mind. She packed her bag with sweets and rushed out, only to see that the Magi were nowhere in sight.
So she went off on her own to find the child, stopping at every home she passed, just in case that was the home of Jesus Christ. She continues her journey to this day and leaves sweets in children’s stockings.
My mom often tells me stories of her holidays in Italy and her experience with La Befana. She and her siblings would be ecstatic to find a package of Torrone, a newton candy, signifying that they had been good that year. Every family has their own traditions of course, but the day of La Befana’s visit is often more exciting than Christmas for many Italian families.
I think I’ll save the story of Dominic the Italian Christmas Donkey for next year. Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays everyone.