About La Befana

The Befana’s Story

La Befana is the Italian gift giver. Depending on the region of Italy, she is often depicted as an old hag who is obsessed with cleaning, that is why she is always shown carrying a broom. She arrives on January 6th, the feast of the Epiphany.
There are various versions of the legend, but my favourite story is that she was one of the inn keepers that turned Mary and Joseph away on their way to Bethlehem. The legend tells that the three Kings, on the night between the 5th and 6th of January, wanted to visit baby Jesus. They walked all night carrying presents with them. They became lost and knocked at a door of an old woman’s house, the house of La Befana.
They asked Befana which way they had to go to find Jesus and if she could come with them to Bethlehem. Befana gave them the right directions but she refused to go as she had lots of things to do at home.
After that, however, she regretted saying no to their request. So she made lots of cakes and walked outside her home. She offered cakes to all the children she met on her way, hoping one of them was Jesus. To this day she still roams Europe looking for the Baby Jesus and leaving gifts of cakes, fruit, nuts and toys at the homes of good children and coal at the home of bad children.
The Epiphany, the 6th of January, is considered the last day of the Christmas holiday and everyone takes the Christmas tree down on that day. In Italy there is a saying ” L’Epifania che ogni festa si porta via” which roughly translated means “The Epiphany takes away all festivity”.

In most Italian regions, even adults give little presents to each other and so do lovers with stockings full of chocolate, that are similar to those that La Befana leaves for the kids.

The following is the traditional Italian poem children recite in anticipation of her arrival. There is also a wonderful song by Gianni Morandi called “La Befana Trullalla” that you can listen to at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MSj0fUlla64


La Befana vien di notte, con le scarpe tutte rotte
con le toppe alla sottana: Viva, viva la Befana!
La Befana vien di notte, con le scarpe tutte rotte
col vestito alla romana: Viva viva la Befana!
La befana vien di notte, con le scarpe tutte rotte
col cappello alla romana: Viva viva la Befana!
La befana vien di notte, con le scarpe tutte rotte
porta un sacco pien di doni da regalare ai bimbi buoni
La befana vien di notte, con le scarpe tutte rotte,
con la scopa di saggina: viva viva la nonnina!
La befana vien di notte, con le scarpe tutte rotte,
se ne compra un altro paio con la penna e il calamaio.
La befana vien di notte, con le scarpe tutte rotte
viene e bussa alla tua porta sai tu dirmi che ti porta?
La befana vien di notte, con le scarpe tutte rotte;
viene, bussa e scappa via, la befana è mamma mia.
La Befana vien di notte, con le scarpe tutte rotte
il suo sacco è pien di toppe e le ossa ha tutte rotte.
La Befana vien di notte, con le scarpe tutte rotte,
il vestito trulla là, la Befana: “Eccomi quà!!!”
La Befana vien di notte, con le scarpe tutte rotte,
con la gerla sulle spalle e le calze rosse e gialle.
La Befana vien di notte, con le scarpe tutte rotte,
s’è scucita la sottana: viva, viva la Befana!

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About mariasaracino

Figurative Artist
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2 Responses to About La Befana

  1. notitiae says:

    Good Idea fot the Befana… Greetings!!!
    NotitiAE for Befana at this link:

    http://notitiae.wordpress.com/2011/01/05/la-befana/

    • Buona festa della Befana. Thank you for you comment. La Befana is one of my favorite Christmas characters. My Italian is not the best but I read your blog on La Befana and it was very interesting.

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