La Befana – Italy’s Good Witch of Christmas Time

Buon giorno and welcome to Stefano’s RomeCabs travel blog.

Christmas is that magical time when children from all around the world excitedly anticipate that arrival of Santa Claus and the special gifts they hope he will deliver on Christmas Eve.
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Everywhere…except in Italy.

In Italy Santa Claus is known as Babbo Natale, but he’s not as famous as our traditional Santa Claus….in Italy it’s the old witch named La Befana who flies on her broom and brings toys and treats to little children on Epiphany (January 5).  La Befana has also been around far longer than St Nick has!

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La Befana Cottage, Italian Christmas Traditions - RomeCabs

La Befana Cottage, Italian Christmas Traditions – RomeCabs

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In fact, the story of Befana goes back to the birth of Christ, when she was a poor old woman living in a cottage near a main road.  

One day she saw three exotic travelers she’s never seen before, wealthy kings bearing gifts and spoke in languages Befana did not understand.  

Upon meeting them, one of the affluent travelers pointed to a bright star in the sky, and spoke: “Bethlehem – over there a great King is born, the Child Christ”, and gestured for the old woman to join them.  Being a poor and humble woman, Befana refused the generous gesture from these seemingly important men….she had nothing to bring as a gift to the Christ Child. The three men departed on the camels towards the brightly shining star.

After some time, Befana noticed the star was growing bigger and brighter, and so her regret of not joining the three travelers grew.  

As she swept her cottage with her broom she thought: if those strangers can find this Christ Child by simply following the star, so can she!

She searched her simple cottage for something to bring to the child….some biscuits she baked earlier, and an old doll. She wrapped them up all nicely, and with her broom in hand she rushed outside to being her journey.

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La Befana house

La Befana house – Urbania Befana Festival

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But to her astonishment, the bright star was gone! She waited too long and the star that led to Bethlehem was gone.

She was not discouraged, she was determined to find the Christ Child on her own and started to run towards the direction she saw the three men go.  She ran so fast that her broom magically lifted her up in the air.

Since that night, for more than 2,000 years, on Eve of Epiphany, La Befana – the kind witch, sets out searching for the Christ Child. She flies her broom and climbs down chimneys of houses where children are sleeping and leaves a small gift behind for them… just in case any one of them may be the Christ Child she’s been searching for.

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La Befana - Eve of Epiphany

La Befana – Eve of Epiphany

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Every year the town of Urbania in the Italian region of Le Marche hosts a very popular La Befana Festival that draws thousands of Befana enthusiasts from all over the world.
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Also be sure to read our very popular Christmas blog and watch the accompanying video showing you the best Italian Christmas Traditions that YOU can enjoy in Italy:
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Italian Christmas Traditions to Enjoy in Italy

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