It is the day of La Befana.
La Befana (translated: The Befana) is Italy's version of Santa.
The story, like all good folk tales, has been told in many ways... but they way I know it is as follows...
On the way to see the baby Jesus, the Three Wise Men stopped by Befana's house in Italy. She let them stay for the night but declined their offer to join them in visiting the Christ child because she was too busy with her house work.
However, after they left she changed her mind and tried to track them down and give Jesus a doll she had made with the cloth from her wedding dress.
She never found Jesus or the Wise Men so she started giving gifts to all the children of the world on the eve of January 6th.
It's a nice story. Certainly a comparable story to the story of Santa Claus... but it gets better.
La Befana looks like a witch. She even flies around on a broom. She has a long ugly nose, long white hair and is usually descibed as being scary looking.
She is descibed as being covered with soot and wearing tattered clothes. She also used to co-host The View.
Just like Santa, the kids aren't supposed to see Befana. If you do, she will hit you with her broom stick.
I swear, Befana is part Santa... part boogeyman.
And, just like Santa La Befana gives good children presents. I am told that a common one is oranges... and instead of putting them in your stocking, she sticks them in your shoes.
She also gives coal to bad children, and since all children are bad at some point in the year... ALL CHILDREN IN ITALY GET COAL.
Usually it's rock candy shaped like coal.
She also sweeps the floor. Soooo... part Santa... part boogeyman... part domestic help.
That is the story of La Befana.
A little odd, but is it really stranger than a man in the red suit that has flying reindeer and sneaks down your chimney and drinks the blood of the fallen?
I think not.
In conclusion, if you found some oranges in your shoes or noticed the floor to be extra clean this morning... Buon Natale!
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