If you have never been in Italy or do not know much about Italian traditions, you are probably thinking… what is a “ Befana ”?
In Italian folklore, Befana is an old woman who delivers gifts to children throughout Italy on Epiphany Eve (the night of January 5) in a similar way to Santa Claus. She visits all the children of Italy on the eve of the Feast of the Epiphany to fill their stockings with candy and presents if they are good… or a lump of coal or dark candy if they are bad.
The Befana is usually portrayed as an old lady riding a broomstick through the air wearing a black shawl and is covered in soot because she enters the children’s houses through the chimney.
“La Befana might seem like a strange person to be at the center of the Italian Christmas holidays […]. She is, for lack of a better way to put it, a witch—complete with warts, long nose, and, yes, a broomstick. (She flies around the world on it while she’s distributing her gifts, and, yes, before she leaves a house, she’ll even sweep the floor).
But she’s actually good. On the night of January 5, she slides down chimneys to fill children’s stockings with candy and gifts if they’re good, coal if they’re bad. In return, Italian families leave La Befana a little something, too. No, not milk and gingerbread boys: a glass of wine and some morsels of food. Remember, this is Italy we’re talking about!
According to legend, La Befana got her start at the time of Christ’s birth. There are a few versions of the story, but the most common is that the three Magi asked the old woman for directions to the scene of the Nativity. She didn’t know where it was, but let them stay the night before they journeyed onward. When they left the next day, she realized she wanted to join them. But she had no idea where they’d gone—or where Jesus was. So she still flies around today, still looking for the baby Jesus.
Historically, of course, La Befana is a little more complicated. Some historians say she dates back as early as the Neolithic times. Or she might have Celtic origins, since in many European countries, people still burn a puppet of an old lady at the New Year’s beginning. Regardless, the way that she’s celebrated now—as the bringer of gifts… or of coal—has been around in Italy as early as the 13th century.” by Walks of Italy
” La Befana ” in Liguria
Every year, Liguria celebrates the arrival of the Befana between the historic cities and the sea on the Riviera. Riding her magical broomstick, she travels across the region delivering candies to well-behaved and mischievous children alike.
In the city of Albenga, in the afternoons she climbs down the towers, which are the symbols of the city. She usually arrives in Alassio in the morning on Bestoso Bridge, emerging from the sea with flippers and goggles. The public at Rapallo and Santa Margherita can wait for the Befana on the respective beaches, while in Sestri Levanta she usually arrives on a motorcycles!
On the Gulf of Poets, the Befana typically arrives on a small train in Lerici; she descends from the sky in Sarzana; she joins a parade in La Spezia; while she “flies off” a medieval tower in Portovenere.
Annual programs can change from village to village, and from town to town. If you are traveling to smaller towns in Liguria or Italy, we suggest you contact the local tourist authority to confirm dates and times. We wish you and joyous Buona Befana!
Source Turismo in Liguria and Walks of Italy