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Thursday, 5 January 2012
Befana Giving Gifts to Children
Befana, the gift-giving witch who reward good children with sweets and toys on the
eve of December 6, the Feast of the Three Kings in Italy
Carbone Dolce or sweet coal now the sweet version for the coal for naughty children
Witches hanging all over
You will see them all over in Italy, these hanging witches especially
after new year. They are called Befana, an old witch who bring
children gifts like candies, toys just like Santa Claus bringing
gifts to children on Christmas Day.
I encountered the word Befana during a stay with migrant
families in Padova. One Pinay was asking a little girl what
she got from her Befana, and the little child proudly showed her new doll.
Reading about it, I learned that Befana comes from the word
Ephiphany, the Christian feast of the Three Kings when
they came to visit the Infant Jesus bringing him gifts.
According to some beliefs, the old woman was invited by the
three kings to join them in looking for the baby but she
declined the invitation saying she had still to clean and do
many other things. Soon after, she realized her mistake and
tried to follow the three kings but they were gone.
Since then, the witch has been giving gifts to good children
to pay for the lost opportunity. Good children get sweets
while the misbehaves have to be contented with black coal as
the belief goes.
Moral of the story: There are more essential things to
do than just cleaning. And if there are three kings inviting
you to a happening, never ever decline the offer.