Italian children are very lucky around Christmas time, they have Befana as well as Babbo Natale (Father Christmas).
Legend has it that many years ago, on the night of 5th January, the 3 Kings were on their way to see baby Jesus. They became lost and stopped to ask directions. They knocked on the door of an old lady. The Kings asked the lady (who became known as Befana) if she knew the way to Bethlehem. She gave them directions, but didn’t go with them.
Later on she regretted her decision not to go to see baby Jesus. She now flies around on her broomstick offering cakes and sweets to children in the hope that one of them will be the baby Jesus.
It is now a tradition in Italy that Befana comes down the chimney on the night before Epiphany (6th january) and fills stockings with sweets and presents. Adults usually give small gifts to each other as well.
In Bagni di Lucca a little house was built for Santa Claus in the Piazza del Comune, and after Christmas it was made into a house for Befana. I’m sure she found it very comfortable.
Congratulations to all those involved in building this beautiful cottage for Befana. I wish I had been in Bagni di Lucca to see it.
Thank you to Morena Guarnaschelli for sending the photos to me so I could share them with you on the blog.
It is a beautiful story and tradition. In many European regions, present giving is linked to the Epiphany or the Three Kings. In some countries Santa is a late addition. I heard a story that said that the Befana wanted to give Baby Jesus some toys that had belonged to her own child who had died. It is also said that she lives in the Pizzorne mountains, in the area. I love the little cottage!
I like that the village does things to suit all ages.
Very sweet story 🙂
It is great to keep traditions alive.
I love that the Italian Christmas story includes a witch! 🙂
…and she has a broomstick.