The Santa Claus Legend Exists In Italy, But It’s Not As Beloved As Befana, The Christmas Witch

Like children across the globe, kids in Italy look forward to Babbo Natale (Santa Claus) and his presents.

However, no matter how much children there love Santa, that modern figure pales in comparison to a much older tradition: the arrival of La Befana, the Christmas witch.

Over 90% of the population in Italy are Catholics, which means they observe the Epiphany, a holy day in the Catholic church.

The Epiphany marks the end of the Christmas season and, according to the Catholic religion, it is when the Three Wise Men, or Magi, arrived in Bethlehem and visited the baby Jesus.

La Befana’s legend directly ties in with the Magi. She was approached by the Three Wise Men, who asked her to lead them to Jesus in his manger.

She declined, being too busy cleaning her house. However, she soon realized her mistake. She filled a bag full of gifts and set off alone in search of the baby Jesus.

Although she followed the same star as the Three Wise Men, she could not find the stable where Jesus lay.

La Befana refused to give up, though. To this day, it’s believed that she travels the world, searching every house for the infant Savior.

On January 6, if children are good, she leaves presents and candy in their stockings.

If they are bad, she’ll leave them coal or a lump of dark, coal-like candy.

Although “witch” has a negative connotation, La Befana is anything but!

Typically, she is portrayed as an older woman that rides a broomstick, wears a black shawl, and is covered in soot (from entering people’s houses through their chimneys). However, she is known to be smiling and cheerful, looking for the Christ child and delivering gifts to good little children.

Can’t wait to see you this year, La Befana!