In the United States and in some other parts of the world, families and children are familiar with who Santa Claus or Saint Nick around Christmas time.
In Italy there is a very special busy and "buona" "good" woman / "Witch" that is known (she is said to come from Northern Italy) called "La Befana." A Witch that bakes treats and works very hard all day, who sweeps the house with her broomstick! She is loved by the children of Italy as well as other parts of the world. She, like Santa Claus and Saint Nick, brings small gifts (mainly candies and chocolates) to the children of Italy and all over the world where vibrant Italian/Italian-American communities exist, only La Befana flies on her broomstick on "Epiphany Eve" January 5th delivering these gifts to good children. Because there are 20 regions in Italy, in the different regions in Italy, the folklore varies, in some regions, children place their shoes outside doorsteps and La Befana fills their shoes, other regions she is said to have "soot" on her face and hands from the keyholes and chimneys she enters upon leaving her gifts.
Although there are several different readings of the ancient tradition of La Befana and how the story began with the "Three Wise Men" and also various descriptions of her, all the stories stem around the same thread. Today, on January 6th "L'Epifania" which marks a special day where you will find locals in Italy wishing and greeting you with a kind "Buona Befana" as a festive celebration that marks this season. Locals in Italy may attend festivals and parades today acting out "presepi viventi' (Nativity scenes).
There are several variations but there is an old Italian poem that goes like this:
La Befana vien di notte
Con le scarpe tutte rotte
Col vestito alla romana
Viva, Viva La Befana!
The English translation is:
The Befana comes by night
With her shoes all tattered and torn
She comes dressed in the Roman way
Long life to the Befana!
If you thought the Holiday season was over, you really do have one more day to celebrate ....and for me, my Christmas tree and bright lights won't come down until after January 6th each year! If you have someone special in your life, be sure to bring them a "treat" or small "sweet" today and be sure to wish them a "Buona Befana."
Peace, Love, Gelato,