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La Befana and Babushka

 

La Befana is a character in Italian folklore, similar to Saint Nicholas or Santa Claus.
She is usually portrayed as an old lady riding a broomstick through the air wearing a black shawl and is covered in soot because she enters the children's houses through the chimney.
She is often smiling and carries a bag filled with gifts.
Legend has it that La Befana was approached by the three kings a few days before the birth of Jesus.
They asked for directions to where the Christ child was, but she did not know.
She provided the three with shelter for a night, as she was considered the best housekeeper in the village with the most pleasant home.
They invited her to join them on the journey to find the Christ child, but she declined, stating she was too busy with her housework.
Later, La Befana had a change of heart, and tried to seeek out the astrologers and Jesus.
That night she was not able to find them, so to this day, La Befana is searching for the Christ child.
In popular folklaw she visits all of the children in Italy on the eve of January 6th (Epiphany) filling their socks with gifts if they are good or a lump of coal if they have been bad.
Being a good housekeeper, many say she will sweep the floor before she leaves.
The child's family typically leaves a small glass of wine and a plate with a few morsels of food, often regional or local, for the Befana.

A similar character in Russia, Poland and Eastern Europe carrying the same basic story is Babushka which means old lady or grandmother .



     

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