The Befana - The Good Witch

La Befana
@LadyDuck (157411)
Switzerland
January 5, 2016 9:43am CST
In the Italian folklore, this night , the Epiphany Eve, an old lady, called the Befana, visits all the Italian children. The old good witch, fills the socks of the good children with candies, and with coals those of the children who were bad during the year. The Befana, is portrayed as very old woman, bringing a broomstick and wearing a hat and a shawl. I remember when I was a kid, I expected to find at least one piece of black rock candy, that looked like coal. I knew that during the year there I had been occasionally bad. This was the saddest day of the Christmas celebrations, because the day after kids went back to school.
56 people like this
53 responses
@owlwings (39228)
• Cambridge, England
5 Jan 16
I always had a fondness for the story of Befana (and her Russian counterpart, Babushka) as the old lady whose house the three kings stopped at before they found Jesus. There are many different versions of the story, of course, which explain how she came to be connected with the Christmas story. Many are sad - she was invited to go with the kings but said she had too much housework to do and then, when she changed her mind, she never found Jesus - and some are gory - her sons were killed by Herod so she gave their things to the baby Jesus. Some people think that she is really the goddess Strenua in disguise (many pagan gods and goddesses 'converted' and became 'sort of Christians' and some even became saints.
7 people like this
@LadyDuck (157411)
• Switzerland
5 Jan 16
There is the belief that the name is a derivative of Bastrina, associated with the goddess Strina, but nobody is sure. I have read the "Baboushka and the Three Kings" story, it's pretty sad, but I like old stories and ancient folklore.
3 people like this
@Namelesss (1376)
• United States
5 Jan 16
@LadyDuck How odd it seems to me that I have never heard the Italian version of this story but have heard the Russian version. I remember reading a version once that was very gory and thinking it must have been a Grimm tale.
2 people like this
@LadyDuck (157411)
• Switzerland
5 Jan 16
@Namelesss It is true that looks a lot like a Grimm tale, very sad. I remember hanging my long sock when I was a kid, I was a bit scared by this old woman, I always feared to receive pieces of coal.
2 people like this
5 Jan 16
very interesting! i have never heard this legend
6 people like this
@LadyDuck (157411)
• Switzerland
5 Jan 16
I believe that it's only Italian and Russian, The Babushka, as @owlwings very well explained.
2 people like this
@fishtiger58 (30338)
• Momence, Illinois
5 Jan 16
Sounds like Halloween and she certainly looks like a Halloween witch.
4 people like this
@LadyDuck (157411)
• Switzerland
5 Jan 16
Not really, if you look closely she is a smiley old woman and does not dress in black with cobwebs and nothing like this.
4 people like this
@fishtiger58 (30338)
• Momence, Illinois
5 Jan 16
@LadyDuck She is a happy witch.
3 people like this
@andriaperry (50798)
• United States
5 Jan 16
That is what I was thinking when I read this.
4 people like this
• Preston, England
6 Jan 16
I wondered who left me that sack of coal - now I know
3 people like this
@Micmac (8496)
7 Jan 16
The Befana knew you had been a bad boy @arthurchappell
2 people like this
• Preston, England
7 Jan 16
@Micmac very likely sadly
2 people like this
@LadyDuck (157411)
• Switzerland
7 Jan 16
Poor Arthur, I am so sorry, but if you have a stove it can come handy.
2 people like this
@1hopefulman (28453)
• Canada
5 Jan 16
I remember her from my youth but we were very poor and she never brought us much so I stopped believing in her.
3 people like this
@LadyDuck (157411)
• Switzerland
5 Jan 16
We only received a few sweets, but it was nice to wait for her and check in the morning what we received.
3 people like this
• Greece
5 Jan 16
Obviously you were a discerning boy Happy
3 people like this
@allen0187 (33124)
• Philippines
13 Dec 16
First time I've heard about Bafana. Thank you for sharing it. I guess she is the female counterpart of Santa Clause, correct?
2 people like this
@LadyDuck (157411)
• Switzerland
13 Dec 16
The story of the Befana is interesting. It is told that the 3 Kings asked to an old woman where Baby Jesus was. She decided to join them in the search. She had lost her baby and she decided to bring a gift to the Baby Jesus. When the Baby saw the gift and understood the sadness of the woman, he decided that from that day she would have been "the mother of all children in Italy". From that day, she comes the night of January 6th to bring candies and chocolates to the good kids.
2 people like this
@allen0187 (33124)
• Philippines
18 Dec 16
@LadyDuck interesting story. Thanks for sharing it!
1 person likes this
@LadyDuck (157411)
• Switzerland
18 Dec 16
@allen0187 I love to read about other stories from other cultures.
1 person likes this
• United States
5 Jan 16
I never knew of this the Befena. I am surprised my Nana did not mention it to me. But I was not always around her as sadly she passed.
2 people like this
@LadyDuck (157411)
• Switzerland
5 Jan 16
I remember when I was a kid and I waited to check my sock to see if I received candies. Good old times.
2 people like this
• United States
6 Jan 16
@LadyDuck Yes the good old times Anna. Did you always get good stuff and no coal?
2 people like this
@LadyDuck (157411)
• Switzerland
6 Jan 16
@TiarasOceanView I get noting now no good stuff, nor coal, but it's netter this way, I had too many cakes during the holidays.
2 people like this
@salonga (28016)
• Philippines
7 Jan 16
So Befana is somewhat a variation of Santa Claus? But true, after the holidays, it is just so sad to go to school or to work the next day. It is like you want to turn back the hands of time and make it the beginning of the holidays again.
2 people like this
@LadyDuck (157411)
• Switzerland
7 Jan 16
Yes, it's a sort of Santa Claus, but she comes on the day of Epiphany and only brings sweets and candies. When I was a kid I would have loved that the Christmas holidays lasted forever, now I am happy they are over.
1 person likes this
@vandana7 (64916)
• India
6 Jan 16
Oh hugs...I do understand..my little friends have not been around for almost 10 days now...and I am feeling like fish out of water.
2 people like this
@LadyDuck (157411)
• Switzerland
6 Jan 16
Oh my, why do you feel like a fish out of water? Who are your little friends?
1 person likes this
@slund2041 (3378)
• United States
6 Jan 16
I never heard the Italian version of this story.
2 people like this
@LadyDuck (157411)
• Switzerland
6 Jan 16
As a matter of fact The Befana is only an Italian tradition.
1 person likes this
@thesids (22358)
• Bhubaneswar, India
5 Jan 16
Ah, so this is what that fairy is called - Befana. I had heard a few stories from friends and others about the fairy who puts in Candies and Coal, but never knew that her name was Befana. In India, I do not know whether it is Indian or not, but I have heard some say that there is some fairy who gets candies and gifts to Children who are well behaved during the year. But in Indian version, she does not come on / near Christmas time (probably because India does not have Christianity as its main religion). Instead, we say she comes just a day before the Birthday of the Kid. I have no idea of how is she (Indian version) dressed or even what transport does she use.Indian context may associate her transport with some witch.
2 people like this
@LadyDuck (157411)
• Switzerland
5 Jan 16
Those are also sweet stories, I believe that every country has such kind of stories to make the kids believe that if they are good they will receive a prize.
1 person likes this
@marlina (73884)
• Canada
5 Jan 16
We didn't have this growing up in French Canada. But we did go back to school after the 6th of January.
2 people like this
@LadyDuck (157411)
• Switzerland
5 Jan 16
We were excited to wait for the Befana bringing the sweets, but very unhappy to go back to school the day after.
1 person likes this
@amadeo (65879)
• United States
5 Jan 16
I have never heard of this.But I love the story there and the name. Gee,I guess I miss a lot of this.You made my day.I always want something about history past. Thank you much.I loved it.
2 people like this
@LadyDuck (157411)
• Switzerland
5 Jan 16
Thank you Alfredo, I love all the old Italian traditions. I have moved from Italy many years ago but I still love my country.
1 person likes this
@Marcyaz (35670)
• United States
5 Jan 16
That sounds most interesting, did you ever get any black rock candy from this old witch?
1 person likes this
@LadyDuck (157411)
• Switzerland
5 Jan 16
No, never, I believe that my parents judged I was a good girl.
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@Marcyaz (35670)
• United States
8 Jan 16
@LadyDuck I bet they did know you were a good girl.
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@LadyDuck (157411)
• Switzerland
8 Jan 16
@Marcyaz Yes, of course they knew, I have always been a quiet girl, not very demanding.
1 person likes this
• United States
5 Jan 16
You have to chuckle as some of the things we 'believed' no matter what county.
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@LadyDuck (157411)
• Switzerland
5 Jan 16
I only believed a very few years, I was a smart kid, but I did not say that "I knew", because my younger brother was a lot less smart.
1 person likes this
• United States
5 Jan 16
@LadyDuck When I was 7 or 8 I told all the kids in the neighborhood that there was no Santa...boy did my parents get a lot of phone calls that night!
2 people like this
@LadyDuck (157411)
• Switzerland
5 Jan 16
@AbbyGreenhill I imagine that all the kids were not happy. My mother had forbidden to tell the truth to my brother. I waited a few years and finally I told him.
@sallypup (27096)
• Moses Lake, Washington
5 Jan 16
Did you also celebrate Christmas? Father Christmas? I love your post.
1 person likes this
@LadyDuck (157411)
• Switzerland
5 Jan 16
Yes, of course we celebrate Christmas and here in Switzerland also St. Nicholas, the night of December 6th.
2 people like this
@sallypup (27096)
• Moses Lake, Washington
5 Jan 16
@LadyDuck My Mom celebrated St. Nick's day almost more than Christmas when she was a kid.
2 people like this
@LadyDuck (157411)
• Switzerland
5 Jan 16
@sallypup Here in Switzerland St. Nick is celebrate more than Christmas.
1 person likes this
@mnjhun1 (226)
• Peru
7 Jan 16
Is she and santa relatives?
1 person likes this
@LadyDuck (157411)
• Switzerland
8 Jan 16
NO, absolutely not, they are two separate entities.
@mnjhun1 (226)
• Peru
8 Jan 16
@LadyDuck Though she does what santa does too
1 person likes this
@DianneN (78124)
• United States
5 Jan 16
I can't imagine you ever being naughty!
1 person likes this
@LadyDuck (157411)
• Switzerland
5 Jan 16
Thank you Dianne, in reality I was a pretty good girl.
1 person likes this
@DianneN (78124)
• United States
5 Jan 16
@LadyDuck I thought so, Anna!
1 person likes this
@BelleStarr (38215)
• United States
8 Jan 16
I have never heard of Befana, she never visited us. lol Maybe we were always good!!
1 person likes this
@LadyDuck (157411)
• Switzerland
8 Jan 16
The Befana visit all children, both the good and the bad. The goods receive candies while the bad kids receive pieces of coal.
1 person likes this
@bluesa (13421)
• Johannesburg, South Africa
6 Jan 16
I have never heard of the Befana. That is ver interesting, almost like Santa, but a lady witch. I hope you did not get coal @LadyDuck . Here school holidays are still on the go.
1 person likes this
@LadyDuck (157411)
• Switzerland
6 Jan 16
I did not get coal, but I did not get sweets either. I fear that I am too old to receive gifts from the old Lady... I am almost a Befana now.
1 person likes this