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La Befana - The witch who visits the evening before Epiphany, in Italy


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Here are some Befana coloring pages courtesy of the Mamma e Bambini website in Italy.



Click here or on the image to go to the big image you can print out and color in.



Click here or on the image to go to the big image you can print out and color in.





The Mamma e Bambini website also offer these color designs of La Befana.  But what's the fun if they are already colored in?  I've put them here anyway.  Click on the image to go to the big image you can print out on a color printer, or copy for your webpage.











The story behind La Befana is a beautiful one.  But before I tell it to you, let me first say, in case you don't know, that La Befana is the witch who visits all the little boys and girls in Italy the evening before Epiphany, January 6th.  She leaves in their shoes or stockings either lumps of coal, if they've been bad children, or candies, if they've been good children.


La Befana marionettes at an outdoor market (click on image to see the full image at Flickr).


There was an old, pre-Christian fable about an old woman who brought presents to children in Winter.  In fact, the fable still exits throughout much of Eastern Europe.  When Italy adopted the Christian faith, the old Befana was incorporated into the new faith.  The story goes like this:

An elderly woman was asked directions to the newborn baby Jesus by the three wise men who had lost their way.  She couldn't help them because she was too busy sweeping out her house.  She even turned down an invitation to join them bringing gifts to the newborn Christ-child.  The elderly woman, or Befana, came to regret her decision, and ever after roamed the world bringing gifts to children in the hopes of finding the Christ-child, or perhaps just to atone for her poor judgment.


La Befana marionette (click on the image to see the full image at Flickr).


The Italian traditions include all or some of these:

  • Children write notes to La Befana, telling her they have been good, and some even suggest gifts they might want her to bring, then they put the notes up the chimney.
  • The children put out a plate with an orange or mandarin on it, with a glass of wine.
  • In the morning, the children find the fruit gone, the wine drunk, and a hand print in ashes on the plate, showing La Befana has been there.
  • Children hang a sock on the fireplace mantel for La Befana to fill.
  • In some areas, shoes are put on the front stoop, instead of socks on the mantel.
  • If there is not fireplace, La Befana lets the children improvise and hang the socks elsewhere in the house, and she will find them.
  • In the morning, the sock is filled with gifts, that often overflow onto the floor.
  • Sometimes the sock is not over the fireplace, but La Befana has hidden it somewhere in the house, and the child has to find it.
  • La Befana comes down the chimney.
  • Is there is no chimney, La Befana finds another way inside, usually via the front door.
  • La Befana either walks, or flies on her broomstick.



There are even special Italian nursery rhymes (filastrocche) for La Befana.


La Befana filastrocca  - 1


La Befana vien di notte

con le scarpe tutte rotte

col cappello alla romana

viva, viva, La Befana


Here is the second one is by Contessa Lara, in Italian.  Children are supposed to recite it before going to bed so La Befana will stop by.  They are warned that if they do not go to bed without a tantrum, La Befana will pass the house by.



La Befana filastrocca   -  2


Dormi, bambino, questa è la notte,
che la Befana dalle sue grotte
esce e, recando paste e confetti,
va per i tetti.


Adagio adagio, pianin pianino,
mette l’orecchio presso il camino;
e se fan chiasso, se alcun si muove,  cammina altrove.


E alle bambine per far dispetto
che, cattivelle, non vanno a letto
ed ai bambini, che non son buoni,
getta carboni.


Ma se ascoltando, placidamente
sente dormir tutta la gente
a lor, con arte che ti sorprende,
giù in casa scende.


E leva fuori dal suo fardello
quanto ha di buono, quanto ha

di bello; bambole e fiori,

chicche e trastulli per i fanciulli.



La Befana nursery rhyme  -  1

La Befana comes at night

in worn-out shoes, all right,

and with a hat like a Romana

long live, long live La Befana


Here is the second one is by Countess Lara.  Children are supposed to recite it before going to bed so La Befana will stop by.  They are warned that if they do not go to bed without a tantrum, La Befana will pass the house by.


La Befana nursery rhyme  -  2

Sleep, child, this is the night,

the Befana comes from her cave,

and carrying candies and sweets

she goes over the rooftops.


Slowly, slowly, gently gently

she puts her ear to the chimney

and if she hears tantrums

or someone moves, she moves on.


And to the children who are rude,

mean, or don't want to go to bed,

and to the children who are bad,

she leaves only lumps of coal.


But if when she listens,

she hears everyone asleep

then with a skill that would surprise you

she slides into your home.


And she takes from her sack

all the goodies, and all the

beautiful things, like dolls and flowers,

and candies and cookies for the children.





This is a fun video (via of the great Italian singer Gianni Morandi's La Befana song.  The text appears on the screen, so it is easy to follow if your Italian is only basic.






There is a great site in Italian about La Befana, made for children, and they even let children send messages to La Befana via the Internet! 

The child is asked to tell her if they've been good the past year, if they've treated their parents with respect, and what they want from La Befana.  It also warns that if they have had tantrums in the previous year, they will only get lumps of coal.

Then the message appears on a list on the site, together with an answer from La Befana.  You can read other people's messages and the answers.  It is very sweet.  (The rest of the site you can give a miss.)



These cards from my Zazzle shop feature the Italian Befana, the witch who arrives on January 6th, with lumps of coal, candy and gifts.  Some cards have a description of the tradition in English, some have Epiphany greetings in both Italian and English.  Click through a card or go directly to the shop to see more and all the different Befana options, and all the other cards available.

View more personalized gifts from Zazzle.


Looking for a Christmas gift for a hyphenated Italian family or child?  Look no further.  This beautifully illustrated re-telling of the story of La Befana, the visitor all good little Italian children await on the eve of the Epiphany, will be a gift they treasure for years to come.  It is 32 pages long, hard-bound, and includes a dust jacket.  The book's dimensions are 8.5 x 11 inches.

Here is the book's video trailer, also beautifully made:

The Night of La Befana is published and distributed by the Italian Children's Market, a great resource for gifts for hyphenated Italian children!

At Italian Children's Market we believe it is never too early or too late for a child to learn about his or her heritage.  Our carefully selected books, DVDs, CDs, educational toys, and more, guarantee a friendly introduction to the language and culture of Italy.  To visit our website is to hold your child's hand as together you step through a special door, one that leads to joy and pride in Italian roots.

(You can purchase the book via either site.)