Tag Archives: Italy

La Befana!

Hello there! I just can’t seem to let go of Christmas so I wanted to share with you a tradition from Italy that can be traced all the way back to the thirteenth century. It is the legend of La Befana.

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The legend of La Befana is that of an old witch lady with a big red nose and slight hunch, dressed in a jacket of colorful patches and she is often pictured with a broom. 

Legend has it that on the 12th night of Christmas (January 5th) the 3 Wise Men, on their search for the baby Jesus, asked La Befana to join them in their quest.   She initially declined, stating she had too much housework to do.   She later changed her mind and went looking for the 3 Wise Men and the baby Jesus, but was unable to find them.
Each year, on the night of January 5th, La Befana will travel on her magic broom to every house in Italy in search of the baby Jesus. She brings candy (“caramele”) or fruit to the children that were good and black coal (“carbone”), onions or garlic to the children that were naughty by climbing down chimneys much like that other guy we know ;-).   The children will leave out their stockings, and even their shoes, hoping to awake on the morning of January 6th to some “caramele”.   Similar to the Santa Claus tradition, many of the children will write notes to “La Befana” and even leave out food and wine for her, even sausages and broccoli in some parts of Italy.

It is a tradition that is still strong in Italy with many stores selling stockings, mostly red, but sometimes even sand-colored, for the children to leave out for “La Befana”.   It is a fairy-tale story of the good witch / bad witch, depending on how you behaved during the past year.   After her arrival, there are many parties and Italians will celebrate going from house to house celebrating the bonds of family and friends.

Here is an Italian nursery rhyme that the children will sing for La Befana

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La Befana vien di notte
con le scarpe tutte rotte
col cappello alla romana
viva viva la Befana!

Rough Translation

The Befana comes at night
wearing old broken shoes
dressed in Roman (hat) style
long live la Befana!

There have been many children’s books written about La Befana, however if you are looking to add one to your child’s library I recommend this one by Tomie DePaola.

La Befana

Here is a Pinterest page if you would like to have some fun with this with your kids tomorrow night. Enjoy! http://www.pinterest.com/dawndelz/befana/

Until next time,

Traveling Sam xo