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Befana, La

by Micha F. Lindemans
La Befana or St. Befana is an ugly but good-natured old hag who leaves presents in the stockings of children on the eve of the Epiphany (the Twelfth Night) in parts of Italy and Sicily. In Christian legend, the tree kings passed an old lady on their way to adore the Christ Child. They invited her to accompany them but she was too busy cleaning her house and did not come with them. Later, she attempted to follow, but became lost among the way and never saw the Holy Child. Every year she comes looking for him. She visits the children while they sleep and fills their stockings, giving the good ones candy and the bad ones stones or charcoal.

The name is said to be a corruption of Epiphany (Epiphania), but parts of the legend pre-date Christian times.


Article details:

  • Also known as:
    La Strega
    La Vecchia
  • Etymology:
    Epiphany

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