Originating from the word ‘Epiphany’, the tale of “La Befana” is celebrated on the 6th of January. The legend is that on the 12th night of Christmas (January 5th) the Three Wise Men began their journey to find baby Jesus. During their quest they stopped at an old ladies house, asking her if she knew where Jesus may be. She had a red nose and slight hunch, dressed in a jacket of colourful patches and was often pictured with a broom.
The Three Wise Men asked La Befana to help them find the baby Jesus, but she declined stating that 'she had too much house work to do'. She later changed her mind and went out searching for the Three Wise Men and the little baby Jesus but was unable to find them.
That was the beginning of the La Befana tradition and from then on, every year on the night of January 5th La Befana will travel riding her magic broom in search of the baby Jesus bringing gifts. Like Santa she climbed down chimneys and brought candy or fruit to the children who were good and onions or garlic to those who were naughty. Many children would write letters and leave out wine, in hope to get a visit from La Befana.
After her arrival, there were many parties where the locals celebrate going from house to house bonding with family and friends. La Befana is celebrated with traditional Italian foods such as panettone (a Christmas cake) and marks the end of the long and festive holiday season in Italy.