The Italian legend of la Befana

Now that new year’s day has passed, Italian children have one more special day to look forward to. The day when “la Befana”comes.

On the 6th of January, the day of Epiphany, the Christian holiday that portrays the visit of the three Kings to Jesus, all Italian children will be waking up in the morning to find presents and sweets from la Befana.

Italian Befana

La Befana is an old witch with a long nose and torn and dirty clothes, who travels on a broom and comes during the night of the 5th of January and fills stockings with sweets, chocolates and small toys to well behaved children and charcoal to children who have misbehaved during the year.

La Befana comes from a religious legend which says that the Magi (three Kings) travelled through many countries following the shooting star and wherever they went they invited people to join them. Only a little old lady refused.

She deeply regretted it later and felt so guilty that she filled a basket with cakes and sweets and went looking for the Magi without success.  For this reason she went and distributed sweets to every child she met, hoping it would have been baby Jesus.

To this day she still travels donating sweets and gifts to all the children.


Italian Befana dolls

befane on display in a shop’s window

 The Befana rhyme:

La Befana vien di notte
con le scarpe tutte rotte
con le toppe alla sottana:
Viva, viva la Befana!

The Befana comes by night
with broken shoes
with patches on the skirt:
Long live, long live the Befana!


carbone charcoal from the befana

multicolour charcoal made out of sugar for naughty children!

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4 Responses to The Italian legend of la Befana

  1. Linda

    Hi there I am wondering where I can buy a statue of la befana like the one from this post? Do you have one? I love it!

    • Alida

      Unfortunately I don’t have one. I bought mine in Italy years ago. They usually sell them in supermarkets during Epiphany usually with chocolates too. I was looking on Ebay and there are several there: look for “bambola befana” (“befana doll”).

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