Taken from “Christmas Traditions”
Legend has it that the Three Wise Men who had traveled long and far in search of Bethlehem approached La Befana. One night of their journey, they became lost, and came to the doorstep of the Italian Grandmother Befana to ask for directions.
Befana was consumed with the sweeping and cleaning of her home, as she was considered the best housekeeper in the village with the most pleasant home, and quickly dismissed the Wise Men when they told her of their search for the New Born King. Even when they asked her to come with them to pay respects to Jesus, she stubbornly refused. Later in the night a brilliant star appeared in the sky, and it's beauty quickly made Befana realize she had made a terrible mistake.
She gathered up toys and presents for the Christ Child and tried to run after them, but her old legs could not catch up with them. In frustration, she wept over the dirty broom that had been her misfortune.
The sincerity of her tears gave the broom new life, and it scooped her up into the night sky to search for the Wise Men she had treated so badly. La Befana has never found the Three Kings or the stable they searched for. So to this day, every year on January 6th, the Feast of the Epiphany, she flies over the homes of the children of Italy leaving all the good children toys and candy, while the bad children get coal, until she finds the baby Jesus.
The name Befana is derived from the mispronunciation of the Italian word epifania.
Yesterday was the celebration of La Befana in our town. The town hall passed out toys for every child, and the Piazza was full of people, music, and games for the children. Everyone was excited when La Befana passed overhead in the helicopter! It was hard to get a picture, but I saw her broomstick waving in the air…