Discover Santa’s Unique Italian Counterpart
When Santa is a slacker, someone else is handing out treats and coal around Christmas and she even cleans the house before she leaves.
Before I get started, the information in this article comes from the website Wanted in Rome.
La Befana is the Italian Christmas witch. It’s a possibility that she grew out of ancient pagan rituals or descended from the Sabine/Roman goddess named Strenia. Strenia was the goddess of the new year, purification, and well-being.
La Befana is an Italian tradition around the religious feast Epiphany on January 6th. According to the story, the wise men invited a witch-like woman to join them on their trip to bring gifts to a baby in a barn.
She initially said “Nah, I’m kinda busy” but decided to follow them for a while and when she couldn’t find the baby in the barn, she gave the toys to other children. So now, Italian children hang stockings by the fireplace or windows the night of January 5th and leave treats of wine, panettone of pandoro for Befana.
If the children have been good, they get treats in their stockings and if they haven’t, they get lumps of coal. A bonus for the parents is that Befana sweeps up before she leaves the house giving everyone a gift one way or the other.
There you have it, Santa's Italian counterpart la Befana. If you're in Italy for Epiphany maybe check the house the following morning to see if it has cleaned up.