The Befana - The Good Witch
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.
55 people like this
• 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
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.
• Thomasville, Georgia
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.
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.
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.
• 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.