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Canada 150

 


      The story of La Befana

       
      By
      Jan. 4, 2013

      Long before the American Santa Claus became the dominant force in the Italian Christmas tradition, Italian children did not anxiously await gifts on December 25. It was the morning of January 6, on the day of the Epiphany, when the goodies came. And it wasn’t Babbo Natale who brought the gifts, but an old peasant woman affectionately called, La Befana.

      The legend goes something like this. An old white-haired woman was busily sweeping her house when the Three Wise Men came to her door. They said they were seeking the new King who was born in Bethlehem. They needed directions, and asked if she wanted to join them on their journey. Impossible, she replied, as she had way too many chores to do. And so the Wise Men went on their way without the old woman.

      But not long after they had left, la Befana began to regret her decision. Were the strangers really going to see the newborn Christ? She ran out of her home with her broom still in tow to look for them, but they were nowhere in sight. And so she set off, searching for them all night, without any luck.

      And so it goes, that every year, on the eve of the feast of the Wise Men – the Epiphany – the old woman once again sets off, going home to home, in search of the newborn Christ. And while she is there, she fills the stockings of the good children with gifts, and leaves a lump of coal for the bad children. All this in hopes that one day she will indeed see the newborn Christ.

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