Monday, 22 December 2014

la befana or bedknobs and broomsticks

One Italian Christmas time custom is that of La Befana, the good hostess and housekeeper from Umbria. She gave food and shelter to the Three Wisemens from the East on their way to Bethlehem. Grateful and somewhat off track, they invited La Befana to join them on their journey. Busy with housework to make her home ready for the New Year celebrations, however, being either an adherent of or the Sabine goddess herself of the New Year in disguise, called Strenua, she refused their invitation. Later, after her guests had departed and seeing the yonder star, La Befana had a change of heart and rushed to meet the Magi, riding her broomstick westward.
La Befana never managed to catch up and never found the child that they sought, and after all these centuries La Befana flies and searches from Christmas to Epiphany, and delivers gifts to any good child she comes across, hoping it might be the right one—and generally a swat and a garlic to ones that prove contemptible. It is said that La Befana will also sweep the homes of good families, so their house is tidy for the new year.