The Legend of La Befana

The story of the kind and loving Italian witch who brings goodies for good children on Jan 5 is deeply ingrained in the minds of Italian children.  Many centuries ago, King Herod decreed that the first born male child and each male child born in that year was to be slain. It was his desire to kill the child reported to have been born the new "King." Soldiers rampaged villages throughout the country murdering male children. One mother became so stricken with grief that she was unable to cry nor accept the loss of her son. She looked and looked around her house for her baby son. She became convinced that her child was not dead, but instead lost. She placed all her childís belongings onto a tablecloth and bundled it at the end to carry it over her shoulder and set out searching from house to house for him.

To this young mother it seemed much time had passed as she searched yet, in only a few days, she came upon a child. Convinced that she had found her lost son, she placed the cloth sack containing all her sonís belongings at the base of the manger where the child laid. The young father gazed at the face of this stranger bearing gifts and wondered about the many years in this old womanís past. Her face had many lines and her hair was fully grayed.

The child was Jesus Christ and in gratitude to the "OLD" womanís generosity, He gave the woman a wonderful blessing. One night a year for all eternity, the woman He named "La Befana" for "giver of gifts," would have all the children of the world as her own. On that night, she would be able to visit each one, bringing them clothing and toys. The night is January 5 each year and the morning of January 6, children all over Italy find their stockings filled with sweet curly candy for being very good or a dark piece of coal if they have been bad. During the night of La Befanaís visit, she is hosted by each family with a plate containing broccoli and spice sausage plus a small glass of wine.

In modern time, La Befana is only seen on rare occasions and indeed lives in the imaginations of small children. 


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