Filed under: Santa and His Posse | Tags: broom, Christ child, Christmas, Italy, La Befana, Magi, Wise Men
On the eve of Epiphany (Jan. 6, celebrated as the day the Wise Men find the Christ child), you will find a broom-riding witch circling above the rooftops of Italy, intermittently diving down chimneys to deliver goodies to children. Her name is La Befana.
Yes, La Befana is the latest in the bizarre pantheon of characters around the world who is said to give presents to children during the Christmas season. But why a witch? And a rather scary one at that? (I am beginning to wonder why more children don’t have more nightmares at this time of year.) Well, apparently the story goes like this: La Befana was just an ordinary old woman, cleaning her house and going about her business, when the Magi (the three wise men of gold, frankincense and myrrh fame) showed up at her door asking for directions to the Christ child. She had no idea, but gave them shelter in her home overnight. They found the experience so pleasant that they invited her along on their journey the next day; but she declined, saying she was too busy with housework. Later that night, she regretted the decision, and set off to find them, with no luck.
Since then, every year, La Befana is said to be searching for the Christ child, and flies around on her broom leaving toys and candy in the stockings of good little children (and lumps of coal or ashes in the bad.) As an added bonus, before she leaves the house, La Befana sweeps your floors so you wake up on the morning of Epiphany with a sparkling home. But watch out! If you see her during the night she’ll give you a thump with her broom.
OK, La Befana, despite the fact that you would likely scare the bejeezus out of my neighbors, and offend some of my feminist friends, I’d officially like to invite you to my home in the U.S. this Christmas. Because anyone who wants to leave me candy and clean floors is more than welcome.
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