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La Befana or La Bufana


La Befana is one of Italy's oldest and most celebrated legends. Each year on January 6 the children of Italy awaken in hopes that La Befana has made a visit to their house.

The legend says:


"Three Wise Men were in search of the Christ child when they decided to stop at a small house to get information. Upon knocking, an old woman holding a broom opened the door slightly to see who was there. Three colorfully dressed men were at her doorstep, they wanted to get directions to find the Christ child. The old woman was unaware of who these three men were looking for and could not point them in the right direction. Prior to the three men leaving they kindly asked the old woman to join them on their journey. She declined because she had much housework to do. After they left she felt as though she had made a mistake and decided to go and catch up with the kind men. After many hours of searching she could not find them. Thinking of the opportunity she had missed the old woman stopped every child to give them a small treat in hopes that one was the Christ child. Each year on the eve of the Epiphany she sets out looking for the baby Jesus. She stops at each child's house to leave those who were good treats in their stockings and those who were bad a lump of coal".

Each year, from early December until January 6, Piazza Navona sets up the Befana toy fair, where endless stalls tempt children with every sort of sticky, gooey sweets and even chunks of black sugar made to look like coal. There are also toy stands and several manger scenes where children sometimes leave letters for La Befana, asking her for specific presents and toys.


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