If you travel to Italy during the Twelve Days of Christmas, especially as you get closer to the Epiphany on January 6th you will see a sight that is quite unique. Italy will suddenly transform itself something closer to an American Halloween than the Father Christmas we are used to at this time of year. There will be witches in the stores filled with candy and people dressed up for photo opportunities with costumed witches in the streets. This is a special witch named “La Befana.”
According to Italian legend, as the Three Magi were traveling to visit the Baby Jesus they lost their way one cloudy night and stopped into the house of an elderly woman now known as “La Befana.” She told them the way and they set out on their journey again the next day. When the Magi invited her to join them she said no because she had too much housework to do (very old school Italian nonna if you ask me!). Later, she regretted her decision, put some gifts for the Baby in her basket and set out. However, on the way La Befana got lost so she decided to leave gifts at every child’s home she came across so as not to accidentally miss the one with Jesus inside. Now, every year on the Epiphany, Italian children received little treats on January 6th from La Befana, not from the Three Kings.
I think this is such an adorable story, regardless of its historical truth. And it explains why you will see witches all over Italy during Christmastime.
Auguri di buona Befana!
Jessica Furiosi is a cradle Cuban-American Catholic who lives in Central Florida with her Catholic convert husband of Irish & Italian heritage. They are both pubic high school educators (certainly a unique vocation!) and Jessica currently teaches World History & Humanities. She has a degree from the University of Central Florida in Art History and enjoys traveling across the world to discover its arts, culture, religions, and customs. Jessica has a blog, https://jisforjourney.com/, about their extensive travels and her exploration of world culture through art history and teaching.