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A gift giver from across the sea

A gift giver from across the sea

By Chrissy Sommer, Community Engagement Director

We are all familiar with our Victorian Santa Claus.   His jolly laugh and round belly.   The thoughts of presents on Christmas Day, and spending time with our family and friends.


Well did you know there are many Gift Givers all around the world? 


Let me tell you the story of La Befana, the gift giver from Italy.


La Befana is an old lady.  Some may say she is a witch, but she is a very good witch.   Others call her Grandma Christmas.


Many years ago, La Befana was visited late at night by the Three Wise Men or Magi, as they were journeying across many miles, to see what they had been told was the newborn King.   They stopped by her home for some warmth and food and told her the tale of this baby.   Although she did not understand their language, she understood the importance of this journey. 


She caught several words, like baby, gifts, star, and the town Bethlehem.   They invited her to join them, but she politely declined.   As they left, she watched as their shadows disappeared into the distance.


Soon after, La Befana had another visitor.   This time a small boy talked about the new king.   He pointed to the sky, which opened to a choir of angels and a great light.   It was at this point, La Befana knew that this was a journey that she needed to take.   She ran back into her home to find a gift, however, all she found were scraps.   She proceeded to make a little gift, a little doll.  When she finished, she headed outside, but the sky was dark, and the boy was gone.


She knew that could not stop her, so she grabbed her broom and her knapsack.  She ran down the street.  All of a sudden, magic-filled her and her broom.   She began to fly, higher and higher.   Over the roofs, she flew.     What a sight to be seen.


Knowing this was a baby but not knowing where, she decided to visit each home, hoping to find the new baby.   She entered the homes through their chimneys and through their doors.   As she looked at the sleeping babies, she realized that they all looked so innocent and pure.  She could not tell where the baby Jesus may be, but she decided that since it could be any of them, she would leave a small toy or a piece of candy or sweet, or some gift.   She wanted to make sure that all children receive a gift, just as the baby Jesus did on the Epiphany.    There is much celebration on January 6th.  Families gather to eat and drink and celebrate the love of each other and the love for La Befana.  She wants people to remember the gifts that the Magi brought to the baby Jesus as well as the gifts received from his as well.


As the legend grew, so did the love of La Befana.   To this day families leave out a glass of Red Wine for her, similar to the milk and cookies for Santa.   In return, La Befana will sweep your home, sweeping out the bad from the prior year and bringing in the good for the new year. 


To find out more about La Befana and the many other Christmas Traditions around the world, I invite you to visit St Charles Christmas Traditions.