Tradition describes the Befana as a poor old lady with a long nose and a kind heart who, on the night between the fifth and sixth of January, flies over the skies of the cities, stopping every now and then among the chimney tops to fill stockings with sweet surprises and small gifts for good children and coal to reproach those who have behaved badly. Her arrival marks the end of the Holidays, therefore, the gifts have become a symbol of recognition for what has been done, but also as a positive sign to start the new year, full of good resolutions.
Popular nursery rhymes accompany her arrival, adding small details to her story: “the Befana comes at night with broken shoes”, the Befana comes, comes from a land far away”.
But what is the true story of the Befana? According to a story passed down through generations, this is what happened. Once upon a time there was an old lady that lived in a small village. One day, three travellers dressed up and covered in silks and precious items knocked at her door. They asked her the road to Bethlehem. They were the three Wise Men, Balthazar, Gaspar and Melchior, who were looking for the right road to take their gifts to Baby Jesus. They asked her if she wished to join them on their travels, she hesitated and said no. Thinking back to that meeting, she changed her mind and as grandmothers usually had cakes and sweets in the house, she took a few, put them into a basket and searched for the three Wise Men, but to no avail. Despite this, she never gave up and started going from house to house, leaving a gift for each child she came across, hoping she would one day meet baby Jesus.
From that day onward she has never stopped and every year she takes sweet surprises to children all over the world.
If you have been good, you will have a full stocking. What did you receive? Share the magic of Epiphany with us.