Italy’s Christmas Witch: La Befana

Excuse me for playing a little bit of blog catch-up. The past few weeks have been spent studying and enjoying the presence of one of my favorite people.  But now my final is over and (sadly) my friend has gone back to the US, and I’ve been meaning to tell you about La Befana, the Christmas witch.

La Befana made my list of Creepy Christmas Characters, but after spending Christmas in Italy, the old lady has grown on me a little bit.

Santa Claus is definitely around in Italy (usually in the form of a strange decoration hanging out of windows), but La Befana is the real star of the Christmas season.

The story goes that La Befana was sweeping her house when the three wise men passed by and asked her to come with them and bring a present for baby Jesus. She declined.

La Befana has always regretted not bringing a present to Christ, so she goes around every year leaving presents for all the children on the eve of the Epiphany (which is on January 6th).

It’s a little strange to walk around the Piazza Navona Christmas Fair and see witch decorations everywhere, but you know, whatever floats your boat. Witches. Sure.

11 Comments

  • Reply Laura January 12, 2011 at 3:30 pm

    Hehe, I’ve enjoyed this story. That’s a friendly witch! I prefer my Three Wise Men, though.

    The caganer is not creepy! Actually, I find it funny! The red hat is called “barretina” and it’s a symbol of Catalan identity. There is a pitch invader (Jimmy Jump) that always wears it when he runs onto the fields.

    P.S. I LOVE Piazza Navona!

  • Reply La Befana Comes Tonight! | An American in Rome January 5, 2012 at 4:07 pm

    […] a friendly reminder that La Befana comes […]

  • Reply Piazza Navona Holiday Fair | An American in Rome January 6, 2012 at 4:17 am

    […] Also, lots of Christmas witches. […]

  • Reply Karen November 26, 2012 at 1:55 pm

    Do you know where I can buy one?

    • Reply L'americana November 26, 2012 at 4:33 pm

      Hi Karen,
      I think the best bet in the US might be Cost Plus World Market?

  • Reply 7 Most Beautiful Spots in Rome During the Holidays – An American in Rome November 24, 2015 at 6:32 pm

    […] public squares, the piazza is transformed into a holiday market selling sweet treats and plenty of Befana figurines. Games and a carousel are set up for children, with plenty of mulled wine and chestnuts […]

  • Reply Explore Rome: January 2016 Events – An American in Rome January 10, 2016 at 3:14 pm

    […] January: The Epiphany, also known as ‘La Befana,’ is a public holiday in Italy so expect store closures and holiday service on all public […]

  • Reply bonnie melielo January 5, 2017 at 9:41 pm

    We, and each of our daughters, has a statue of la Befana near the presepio. The nipotini receive italian candies and a small toy on the morning of Jan. 6, which are placed near the statue. They leave out a small glass of wine and a piece of cheese for her. 🙂 We love the Tomie dePaola storybook of her.

    • Reply Natalie January 6, 2017 at 4:05 am

      What a lovely tradition! I will have to find the book.

      And the wine + cheese is bit is amazing!!

  • Reply January 2017 Events in Rome – Your Calendar of What to Do – An American in Rome February 1, 2017 at 4:55 am

    […] January: Leave your shoes out! La Befana, Italy’s Christmas witch, is visiting.  Today is the Epiphany – a national holiday so expect business closures and […]

  • Reply When to go to Rome: a month-by-month guide of when to visit – An American in Rome February 4, 2017 at 8:39 am

    […] epiphany – a national holiday when businesses close and children celebrate by getting gifts from La Befana – Italy’s friendly Christmas witch. The holiday marks the end of the Christmas season in Rome, and the beginning of the sale season in […]

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