This little paper and clay statue in our home represents our Befana. My wife and I will be making our own statues of clay and cloth to present to our children's families for future La Befana celebrations.
(The name Befana is derived from the mispronunciation of the Italian word epifania (English: epiphany).
La Befana is a kindly old woman character in Italian folklore, similar to Saint Nicholas or Santa Claus who brings children toys on the Feast of the Epiphany, January 6. It marks the end of the Christmas season and the day that the three Wise Men arrived at the manger of the Christ child.
According to the legend of la Befana, the Three Wise Men stopped at her hut to ask directions on their way to Bethlehem and to invite her to join them. She refused, saying she had too much work to do. Later a shepherd asked her to join him in paying respect to the Christ Child. Again she refused. When night fell she saw a great light in the skies.
La Befana thought perhaps she should have gone with the Three Wise Men, so she gathered some toys that had belonged to her own child, who had died, and ran to find the kings and the shepherd. But, la Befana could not find them or the stable. Now, each year she looks for the Christ Child. Since she can not find Jesus, she leaves gifts for children who have been good or pieces of coal for those who have been bad in socks hung near the fireplace.
La Befana gives gifts to the children to remember the Three Wise Men who brought gifts to baby Jesus.
Over the years my wife, who is Italian, and I have kept this tradition alive at our home for our children. We are continuing the tradition with our granddaughter, and thus we will be traveling again to see our children's families.