La Befana πŸ§ΉπŸ§™β€β™€οΈβ€‹πŸ§Ή

On 6 January we celebrate the religious feast of the Epiphany, or the popular folk version of La Befana,
It is an annual public holiday across Italy, and marks the official end of the festive season, after which we put away all the Christmas decorations until the next year.

It is thought that her name derives from the word Epiphany (a Greek word meaning “manifestation” of the divinity) the festivity that commemorates the visit of the Magi to the Baby Jesus in Bethlehem on the 12th day of Christmas.

La Befana is portrayed as an ugly old woman, dressed in dark rags who, on the eve of the Feast of the Epiphany, flies over the houses on her broom and enters through the chimneys to deliver gifts to the children. She puts them in the socks left hanging by the fireplace: she brings candies and presents if they have been good, black coal (now actually black sugar) to the bad ones.

According to legend the Three Wise Men (or the three kings) on their journey to Bethlehem invited the old woman to join them on the journey. But she replied that she was busy sweeping and cleaning the house and did not go.
Once finished, she tried unsuccessfully to reach them. Unable to find Jesus and to give him a gift, she continues to wander around Italy and to visit every house delivering gifts along the way, hoping to leave a gift for baby Jesus as well

There are some nursery rhymes about her, with variations of the words. The version I learnt as a child is

La Befana vien di notte
con le scarpe tutte rotte
con le toppe alla sottana:
Viva, viva la Befana!

It basically translates into something like this:

The Befana comes at night
With her shoes all broken
with patches on her gown
Long live the Befana!

Il 6 gennaio si celebra la festa religiosa dell’Epifania, o anche la popolare versione folkloristica e della Befana, festivitΓ  che segna la fine ufficiale delle celebrazioni natalizie, dopodichΓ© riponiamo tutte le decorazioni fino all’anno successivo.

Si pensa che il suo nome derivi dalla parola Epifania (termine greco che significa “manifestazione” divina ) la festivitΓ  che commemora la visita dei Magi al Bambino GesΓΉ a Betlemme il 12Β° giorno dopo Natale.

La Befana Γ¨ ritratta come una vecchia brutta, vestita di stracci scuri che sorvola le case in sella alla sua scopa ed entra attraverso i comignoli per consegnare doni ai bambini. Li mette nelle calze lasciate appese vicino al camino: porta caramelle e regali se sono stati buoni, carbone nero (oggi in realtΓ  zucchero nero) a quelli cattivi.

Secondo la leggenda i Re Magi nel loro viaggio verso Betlemme invitarono la vecchia ad unirsi a loro. Ma lei rispose che era occupata a spazzare e pulire la casa e non partì.
Una volta finito, tentΓ² inutilmente di raggiungerli. Non riuscendo a trovare GesΓΉ e a fargli un dono, continua a girovagare per l’Italia e a visitare ogni casa lasciando doni lungo la strada, sperando di lasciare un dono anche a GesΓΉ bambino.

Ci sono alcune filastrocche su di lei, con varianti delle parole. La versione che ho imparato io da bambina Γ¨ questa:

La Befana vien di notte
con le scarpe tutte rotte

con le toppe alla sottana:
Viva, viva la Befana!

Image: Bartolomeo Pinelli, La Befana, 1821

79 thoughts on “La Befana πŸ§ΉπŸ§™β€β™€οΈβ€‹πŸ§Ή

  1. How many memories of childhood are longed for because of the innocence that surrounded us. In this part of America the tradition of the Magi has been lost many years ago. Not like in Europe, which is still a great party for children with their parades and gifts. Happy Epiphany Luisa.

    Liked by 3 people

  2. Many people of European heritage still celebrate the Epiphany in Canada, but most Canadians do not. I know my first boss (Scottish) was shocked, that I would take my Christmas decorations down before 12th night (Jan 5), the evening before Epiphany. Orthodox Christians celebrate Christmas on January 7. So many different ways and dates of honouring the same event, depending on how the tale was told in their part of the world. Cheers Luisa. Allan

    Liked by 4 people

  3. I love this folk tale and vaguely remember hearing about it, but I’m wondering if it was in another country than Italy. Happy Epiphany, Luisa. Our church is offering a home blessing today by either a member of the Clergy or the staff. It will take place outside the home and will last less than 20 minutes. They also offered do it yourself home blessings.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. In Italy home blessings are generally done in the period preceding Christmas or Easter. In my town it has been suspended for two years: the priest or his substitute no longer goes around the houses according to a predetermined calendar, but it is possible to receive a collective blessing in the church.
      Happy Epiphany to you, my dear Pat

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Interesting, Luisa. I had never heard of home blessings before this year. We have blessed animals, student backpacks, and even the hunt–but never homes to the best of my knowledge. Happy Epiphany to you too, dear Luisa.

        Liked by 1 person

  4. Anche io ho imparato questa filastrocca e a prendere scapaccioni quando vedendo mamma ho detto Γ¨ arrivata la befana. Mi sono dimenticato di mettere il punto interrogativo nel parlare!

    Liked by 3 people

  5. I’m not a religious person Luisa, but I have the greatest respect for those that are – and that includes all faiths. For that reason I’m not as familiar as you are with all the Holy Days, but I do like to know about them, so thanks for enlightening me once again. Have a good day celebrating The Befana or Epiphany 😊

    Liked by 4 people

  6. bonjour Luisa,
    j’ai eu beau suspendre mes chaussettes, mais malheureusement la Befana n’a pas passΓ© chez moi, mais ouf je n’ai tout de mΓͺme pas eu de charbon.
    un grand bonjour depuis l’alsace !

    Liked by 1 person

  7. It’s a holiday in Austria as well and it was our custom too at home to put away the decoration and tree on the 6th. Here in Germany, where I’m currently working and living, it’s a normal working day …

    Liked by 1 person

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