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La Befana


La Befana

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La Befana is a friendly character in Italian folklore, similar to Santa Claus. The characted originated possibly from Rome, then the tradition spreaded to peninsular Italy. Her name derives from the festival of Epiphany, and she visits all the children of Italy on the night of 5 January / 6 January to fill their socks with candy if they are good or a lump of coal if they are bad. Being a good housekeeper, many say she will sweep the floor before she leaves. The child's family typically leaves a small glass of wine and a plate with a few morsels of food, often regional or local, for Befana.

She is usually portrayed as an old lady, riding a broomstick through the air. Unlike a witch though, she is often smiling and she has a bag or a hamper filled with candy and/or gifts.

Legend has it that La Befana was approached by the three Magi some days before Christ's birth. She provided them with shelter for a night, as she was considered the best housekeeper in the village with the most pleasant home. They invited her to join them on the journey to find the Christ Child, but she declined, stating she was too busy with her housework. Later, Befana had a change of heart, and tried to search out for the Magi and the Christ child. That night she was not able to find them, so to this day, La Befana is searching for the Christ child. She leaves all the good children toys and candy, while the bad children get coal; for she never knows who might be Jesus!

Traditionally, all Italian children may expect to find a lump of "coal" in their stockings (actually rock candy made black with caramel coloring), as every child has been at least occasionally bad during the preceding year.

In the center of Rome, in Piazza Navona, a popular Market, the Fiera della Befana takes place each year between Christmas and the Epiphany. There toys, sugar charchoal and candies are sold for the roman children.

The feast of la Befana in Rome has been immortalized in four famous sonetti in roman dialect by the nineteenth century roman poet Giuseppe Gioacchino Belli.

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Christmas Guide, v. 2.0, by MultiMedia

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