Tuesday, December 29, 2009

The Legend of Old Befana for the Epiphany

The Befana comes
by night
with her shoes all
tattered and torn.

She comes dressed in
a Roman way
Long life to
the Befana!

Tomie dePaola fans are sure to have read this book. It's a fun way to celebrate the Epiphany. Children of Italian descent should be familiar with this tale of the grumpy Old Befana who lives alone and cares not for visitors. She takes great pains to sweep her house and bakes wonderful breads, but focuses on those tasks so intensely that when the Three Kings come looking for the Christ Child, she has no time to follow them to the Christmas miracle. Shortly afterwards, she realizes her mistake and decides to go after them, baking breads and sweets for the baby. She can not resist one last big sweep on her modest home and walkway before she heads out into the night, but by then, the Magi are gone and she struggles to find her way. Just as she exhausts herself, the angels appear and with a breath, sweep her up into the air on her search.

La Befana rides through the night on her broom, searching for the Christ Child to this day. She climbs down the chimneys and leaves sweets and books for the good little Italian children, while the naughty little children only find onions, garlic and coal waiting for them. She brings her broom to sweep the homes for all the mothers.

You can peruse the first several pages of Tomie dePaola's book here.

Of course, there are many variations of the story of La Befana. But for a wonderful week long festive celebration incorporating this Italian Legend, here is a fun site. There is an Italian coloring book here, along with poems and fun activities to enjoy with your children.

Viva La Befana!


  1. I love Befana! It;s nice to see another waldorf homeschooler celebrating her. LAst year we made Befana dolls to hang outside, and biscotti.

  2. How fun! I would love to get your biscotti recipe, esp since you're a vegan, Jenn! Great idea about making Befana dolls. I emailed a friend of mine from Napoli to see if she has any traditions to share from when she celebrated it as a child in Italy.

  3. I've read about Befana, but I haven't seen this book. How wonderful! Thanks for the ideas.