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The Legend of Befana

Country: Italy


When: Night of January 5

In Italian folklore, the Witch Befana visits children on the eve of the Feast of Epiphany (January 5th), giving candy and fruit if the children have been good, or black candy, coal, garlic and onions if they have been bad. In the households she visits, she is said to sweep the floor with her broom, sweeping away the problems of that year in order to prepare for a new one.

A mythic continuation of the Sabine/Roman goddess Strenia, Befana’s myth is said to have begun with two similarity matched origins.

Story One: Seeing the star that was announcing the imminent birth of Jesus, the Three Kings, or Wise men, passed through Befana’s village asking for directions. Staying with her as she was said to provide the best kept house, they invited her to join them, whereupon she declined stating that the business of sweeping her home took up most of her time. Later she changed her mind and tried to seek out the Wise Men, but could not find them; and to this day she searches for the baby Jesus, handing out gifts to all children. 

Story Two: Having lost her own child around the time of Jesus’ birth, Befana is wracked with grief and sets out to see the baby Jesus, thinking in her maddened state that the child is hers. Upon reaching the infant Jesus and giving him gifts, in return she is given the gift of being the mother to all children in Italy. 


Image is orginal Inspired by the Christmas mythology and comes on a wooden slice and hung with ribbon, the text of the myth as above is also displayed on the back of the ornament.

The Folklore of Christmas. The Legend of Befana

  • Size various: Approximately 4" Height x 4" Width


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