La Befana The Christmas Witch of Italy

La Befana, The Christmas Witch of Italy

Wait a minute. A Christmas Witch? Witches belong to Halloween, scary stories, and fairy tales but not Christmas! In general, I would agree with you, but in Italy for hundreds of years, there has been one witch for Christmas. Only one, and her’s is a sad tale.

La Befana is a witch, But she is a witch who once had a great opportunity offered to her and she turned it down. She has been paying for that missed opportunity for centuries. La Befana comes to children on the eve of Epiphany, December 5th, and leaves candy and toys in the stockings of good children. In the stockings of bad children, she leaves a lump of coal. If she feels a bit sorry for the bad children, sometimes she will leave black-painted candy. If people leave her a snack of a glass of wine and some food, she will sweep the house with the broom she uses to travel on.

La Befana’s story goes back two thousand years. One story, and the one most prevalent, is that the wise men stopped at La Befana’s house to inquire of her where they would find The Christ Child. La Befana was busy cleaning her home and didn’t know where the child was. Even though she was an old crone who didn’t like to be disturbed, she offered The Wisemen lodging for the night. The three men gratefully accepted and as a thank you, asked La Bafana to go with them to see the child. La Bafana declined, stating she was much too busy to go with the Wisemen.

It might be interesting to note that the word witch is a contraction of two words wise and woman. So, The Wisemen came to visit a wise woman and were rejected by her. Wise Women or witches were skilled women not only in magic but also in healing so at one time a witch may have been revered in villages.

La Bafana being a wise woman realized she had made a mistake in not going with the Wisemen. So, she donned a black cloak, mounted her broomstick, and flew in pursuit of the holy men. She never found them. Now she has spent the centuries searching for the Holy Child Jesus and never finding Him. In her search she leaves the toys and candy to children on the Eve of The Epiphany, Epiphany being the celebration of the day The Wisemen found Jesus in Bethlehem. In some ways, La Bafana may leave the gifts as penance for missing the opportunity to give a gift to Jesus.

La Bafana’s name is believed to be a derivative of the word epiphany. It is seen more clearly in the way the word is spelled in Italian, “Epifania.”

La Befana is considered by Italians to be the good witch of Christmas, think of Glinda in The Wizard of Oz only old and haggard. She is much celebrated and actresses all over Italy dress up as her and play the part to entertain children and to give them their gifts. This is not to say Santa doesn’t come to Italy, he does indeed only the Italians call him Bobba Natale which translates means Dad Christmas, much like the British have Father Christmas.

La Befana, for many, is a symbol of the new year, and her sweeping out of your house means not only has the house been cleaned, but all the troubles of the previous year have been swept away also. If only that were true.

The post La Befana The Christmas Witch of Italy appeared first on Weird But True News.