Like children everywhere, Italian kids look forward to the arrival of the red-suited Babbo Natale (Santa Claus) on Christmas Eve. But they are waiting also for the arrival of an old woman called La Befana in early January. On Epiphany Eve, the old, tattered and soot-covered Befana flies around the world on a broomstick and comes down chimneys to deliver candy and presents to children who have been good during the year. For those who have fallen a bit short of model behavior, la Befana will leave lumps of coal, which today are really "candy coal".
The story is that la Befana was approached by the Three Wise Men who asked her to lead them to the stable where the baby Jesus lay in a manger. La Befana was too busy cleaning her house at the time, so she declined the offer to go with them. Very soon she realized that she had made a huge mistake, so she gathered up a bag full of gifts and set off alone in search of the baby Jesus. Though she followed the same star as the Magi, she was unable to find the stable. La Befana continues to travel the world over to this day searching every house for the Christ child. On January 6, the day of Epiphany, Italian children hold their breaths as they search their stockings for a sign that they have been good that year.
La Befana, una parola che deriva da Epifania, é una vecchia donna che porta doni ai bambini italiani durante la notte tra il 5 e il 6 gennaio. La Befana porta i doni ai bambini per ricordare quelli offerti a Gesù Bambino dai Re Magi.
La Befana ha una gonna larga e scura, uno scialle nero , un fazzoletto, o un cappello a cono in testa, un paio di scarpe vecchie e un grande sacco(bag) con regali, giocattoli(toys) , cioccolatini e dolci(sweets), ma anche(also) un poco di carbone(charcoal) . Lei viaggia su una vecchia scopa ma é più veloce di un aereo jet. Lei passa sopra i tetti(flies over the roofs) , scende per(goes down) i camini e riempie(fills) le calze dei bambini.
I bambini preparano per la buona vecchia, in un piatto(in a dish), un mandarino o un'arancia e un piccolo bicchiere di vino.
In gennaio, i bambini aspettano la Befana con i regali.
La Befana vien di notte/The Befana comes by night
Con le scarpe tutte rotte/With her shoes all tattered and torn
Col vestito alla romana/She comes dressed in the Roman way
Viva, Viva La Befana!/Long life to the Befana!
Piazza Navona in central Rome is the site of a popular market each year between Christmas and the Epiphany, where toys, sugar charcoal and other candies are on sale. The feast of the Befana in Rome was immortalized in four famous sonnets in the Roman dialect by the 19th century Roman poet Giuseppe Gioacchino Belli.
In Ottorino Respighi's 1928 Feste Romane ("Roman Festivals"), the fourth movement, titled La Befana, is an orchestral portrayal of this Piazza Navona festival. Romans believe that at the midnight January 6 the Befana shows herself from a window of Piazza Navona, and they always go there to watch her (it's a joke everybody tells while going to the feast to buy candies, toys and sweets).
La Befana songs/videos: