As the holiday season approached this year I learned about some of the Italian traditions and one took me by pleasant surprise.
La Befana – She is the legend of an old witch who visits homes to leave gifts for good children and coal for bad ones on the 5th of January. I’ve read several accounts of her story and from what I’ve gathered she is a Pagan tradition that was conformed into Christianity as an old witch who originally turned down going with the wise men to meet baby Jesus but changed her mind and on the 12th night after Christmas she is flying around searching for the baby Jesus and leaving gifts.
Image from an illustrated book reviewed at: ItalophileBookReviews
A few more resources:
Italy Heritage (If non other, click this one, it really breaks down the tradition in an easy to read site)
I’ve learned the basic observance is children hanging the stockings the night of January 5th to have them filled with candy (the coal here is candy made to look like coal because even misbehaved children have promise to be good) and apparently the stores will have massive sales (like Black Friday) through this weekend.
As I walked around our lovely little town during the last couple of weeks I’ve noticed shops carry La Befana dolls and crafts, even the chocolatier has chocolate witches and special stockings that look like a witch’s boot, chocolate witch hats and other items. I felt a bit weird asking to take photos so I didn’t, you’ll just have to go to know.
I have come to find out there are quite a few Christmas witch type traditions around the world, please feel free to share if you know any.
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