The stockings are hung by the chimney with care in hopes that
St. Nicholas La Befana soon will be there! Yes, that’s right! Tonight she is coming and will be leaving treats to all the GOOD boys and girls. If you’ve been BAD, watch out – you will most likely find some coal in your stocking instead!
The legend of La Befana is an old Italian tradition. She is an ugly old lady who flies around Italy on her broomstick with broken shoes. But despite the fact that she sounds like a mean old witch, she is actually a kind old lady who brings treats to all the children of Italy. She is on a search for the new Baby Jesus, and since she doesn’t know which child it is, she leaves treats for all the children!
Visiting Italy a few years ago, we were lucky to partake in some of the local traditions surrounding this day – both in celebration of Epiphany and of La Befana. In the town square, a huge bonfire was set up with a stuffed old woman sitting at the top. The plan was that as the fire burned the old woman on top would topple over. Depending on which way she toppled would set the tone for the year to come! That year, she didn’t fall because the snow made it so the bonfire didn’t burn. Hmm…it made for an interesting year!
January 6th, or La Befana, has also been deemed “The Woman’s Holiday”. Men all over Italy say “auguri” to all the women – but what they mean by it is always a mystery. Are they saying it because they think that a woman looks like the Old La Befana, or are they saying it as a joke, or are they simply acknowledging the woman’s day? Well, take it in stride and simply enjoy the traditions of the day!