La befana is the Italian Santa Claus. She visits every home in Italy on the night before the Epiphany (6th of January) and leaves gifts and candy for the good children and a lump of coal for the naughty ones. Befana rides a broomstick, and unlike Santa she can easily climb up and down chimneys, as she is thin. She is fashion concious too, and wears a black shawl to disguise all that chimney soot. Italian children hang out their stockings by the chimneys for Befana, and put out little morsels of food and a glass of wine for her. If Befana is in a good mood, she may even sweep the floors of the house before she leaves.

The legend of Befana goes, that the three wise men on their way to visit the Baby Jesus knocked on a little hut on a hill in Italy looking for directions. Yes, this was Befana’s house. Bafana did not know the way to Baby Jesus. She however offered the three wise men hospitality for the night. The next morning, before the three wise men set out on their quest, they invited Befana to come with them. But she was too busy with her housework and declined. Later, Befana regretted not going to see Baby Jesus, and decided to go out on her own to look for Him. She baked lots of goodies and packed little gifts to give Him. Befana searched and searched, but she could not find the Baby Jesus or the three wise men. She gave every child she met a gift in the hopes that this was the Christ child. Even after centuries, Befana is still searching. Every year, on the night before the Epiphany, she sets out on her search with a bag of goodies, and gives a gift to every child she meets on the way.