"" Writer's Wanderings: La Befana--Italian Christmas Figure

Thursday, December 04, 2008

La Befana--Italian Christmas Figure

While searching for the different ways Santa Claus is represented around the world, I happened upon this story about a Christmas character in Italy, La Befana. She resembles a witch and is said to be able to do magical tricks but is not a witch. She leaves goodies for good little Italian boys and girls and coal for those who are bad.

As the story goes, she saw the Christmas star in the sky and when the magi passed through her town, she provided them with shelter. They asked if she knew about the Christ Child and where they might find him. She was invited to join them but she declined. Saddened by the loss of her own child, however, she suddenly had a change of heart and wished to see this baby the magi talked of. She filled a bag with bakery and gifts and left to follow after the magi.

Too late to catch up with them, she became lost. Legend says angels gave her a broom so she could fly around searching for the baby Christ Child. She searches to this day and on the eve of Epiphany, she drops in on the children she finds to see if it is the one she seeks. It never is but she still leaves a gift. It is said she realizes that her search is not in vain. That, in a way, the Christ Child can be found in all children.

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