La Befana and Epiphany in Italy


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On the 6th of January, it was a public holiday in Italy – it’s Epiphany – the day Jesus Christ was revealed to the world, the 3 wise men visited and for the Orthodox they celebrate the day as both the nativity and baptisim of Christ.

La Befana – which has pagan roots , is also celebrated on the eve of Epiphany. She is a character from the Italian folklores. You see in shops and squares, women dressed up as witches, with pointy hats and a broom. She is in fact a housekeeper hence the broom. She brings presents and sweets to children by putting them into their stockings if they have been good. If they have been bad, they get black candy.

La Befana comes by night
With her shoes all tattered and torn
She comes dressed in the Roman way
Long life to the Befana!

I was puzzled for a week because I could not understand why were the shops stacked up with large stockings, candies, witch hats and brooms! Halloween I thought? Well mystery solved when I saw the news that day, the celebration of Befana. On the 6th, it is also customary – people will take down their christmas trees and burn them in a bonfire in the town centre as part of the Befana celebration.

In Venice, there was a regata held coinciding with La Befana. Men dressed as La Befana, raced along the Grand Canal on their boats, rowing standing up! The winner this year was Giovanni Rossi.


From Il Gazzettino (


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