La Befana

While many know the story of Santa Claus, or Babbo Natale, only Italians know of La Befana—the kind witch who brings gifts on the 6th of January, marking Epiphany day. Here's how the story goes: 

La Befana, an older woman who found joy in housework, spent most of her days and nights sweeping and gardening. She lived in a small house on the road that led to Bethlehem.

One day, la Befana was working in her yard, when she felt a hand lightly tap her shoulder. Looking up, she found the three wise men looking back. She noticed each of them held a gift. "Yes?"; she asked. "Hello, do you think you can tell us if we are going in the right direction?"; one of them asked. 

The three wise men told her of their intentions to find baby Jesus and how the North Star had been guiding them. La Befana turned her head in confusion, not understanding the significance of their travels. Nevertheless, la Befana assured them this was the right road.

As she turned to continue her work, she heard one of the wise man ask, "Would you like to join us?" "No, I am busy" La Befana mumbled. "Sorry"

The three wise men nodded, thanked her for her help, and continued on.

A few days later, la Befana went into town. Everyone was talking about the Son of God, Mary and Joseph, and the three wise men. La Befana was filled with regret for not accepting their offer to go with them.

Immediately, she began looking in every shop for a gift that would be worthy of baby Jesus. When she finally found it, she made her way back to her home, threw on a black cloak, and took off on her fastest broom. 

But there was a problem. As she glided through the dark sky, there was no sign of the North Star. Feeling disappointed, she began to make her way home when she got an idea.  She began flying down the chimney of every home that housed a well-behaved child. In each house, she left a gift, just in case the child was Jesus. 

Now every year, on January 6th, la Befana mounts her broom, visits every child, and leaves a gift in the hopes that the young face she sees is that of the newborn king.

Winter Sunset in Rome

Winter Sunset in Rome