Sunday, December 10, 2006

Babbo Natale and La Befana

Although the figure of Babbo Natale (Father Christmas) with his red suit and big white beard is becoming more widespread, the children of Italy hang up their stockings on the Feast of Epiphany on January 6th. Instead of Father Christmas the children anxiously await a visit from La Befana. She is a witch like character who rides around on a broom. According to Italian legend, the three wise men stopped at her house to ask directions on their way to Bethlehem. They invited her to join them but she refused as she was busy cleaning her house. She promised that she would catch them up when she was finished, but by the time she had finished the cleaning they were long gone. She frantically began running after them with presents for baby Jesus, still carrying her broom. Magically she began to fly on her broom but could still not find the wise men or baby Jesus. Since then, on January 6th, the feast of Epiphany, she flies on her broom leaving gifts for other children. She brings presents for the good and pieces of coal for the bad.

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