In Italy, on January 6th, Befana Comes with Gifts for Kids for the Epiphany

“Befana” is Italian for “Epiphany”. It’s also the name of a character from an interesting legend that strongly influenced the Italian traditions for celebrating this holiday.

On their way to deliver gifts to the baby Jesus, the Three Wise Men came across a woman named Befana. They asked her to come with them, but she refused, saying she had too much housework to do. Later she realized she had made a mistake. She ran off with her broom in search of the Magi, bearing her own presents for the baby Jesus. But she never caught up to them. It’s said that Befana is still searching for the baby Jesus.

In Italy, it’s Befana, and not Santa Claus, who goes around giving gifts to all the children, in imitation of the Three Wise men bringing gifts to Jesus.

Befana looks like a friendly witch, with a mole on her face and in tattered clothes. She flies on a broom and goes down the chimneys to deliver gifts to all the children.

La Befana Picture

Here’s a nursery song children chant in Italy for La Befana in Italian and with an English translation…

La Befana vien di notte

La Befana vien di notte
con le scarpe tutte rotte
col cappello alla romana
viva viva la Befana!

The Befana Comes at Night

The Befana comes at night
In worn out shoes
Dressed like a Roman
Long live the Befana!

Happy Befana Day!

Lisa

This article was posted on Tuesday, January 3rd, 2006 at 9:35 pm and is filed under Children's Songs, Countries & Cultures, Epiphany, Holiday Songs, Holidays Around the World, Italian, Italian Children's Songs, Italy, La Befana Day, La Befana Songs, La Befana vien di notte - The Befana Comes at Night, La Befana vien di notte - The Befana Comes at Night, Languages. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

16 Responses to “In Italy, on January 6th, Befana Comes with Gifts for Kids for the Epiphany”

  1. Maria Sabatino-Cabardo Says:

    Hi and Grazie for this song.
    My mom who is from Italy used to sing this to us all the time and she has now taught my 4 year old and 2 year old this legand and song but she sings a slightly different song:

    La Befana vien di notte
    con le scarpe tutte rotte
    ai bambini piccolini lascie tanti chocolatini
    ai bambini cativoni lascie cenere e carbone

    excuse my spelling it may not be correct but it is the song they sing in Roseto Valfortore, a little mountain town in Puglia

    the english would be

    The Befana comes at night
    In worn out shoes
    To the little children she leaves a lot of little chocolates
    To the bad little children she leaves ashes and coal

    You know this is a great legand and I hope all Italians and those of Italian origan keep up the legand and teach this to our children

    I also have a little poem I saw in your site of children’s songs, about Cicerenella, this is in dilect though again, our dilect from Roseto Valfortore in Foggia

    Cicerenella teneva ‘nu gallo,
    tutta’ a’ notte ce ieva a cavallo
    E ce ieva tanto bello,
    chist’ e o gallo di Cicerenella

    Cicerenella teneva nu ciuccio
    ieva venenno cavalo e cappucce
    e venenneva tanto bello
    chist’ e o ciuccio di Cicerenella

    Cicerenella teneva na votta
    metteva pe incoppa e asceva pe sotta
    E asceva tantu bello,
    chist’ e a votta di Cicerenella

    Italian
    Cincirinella aveva un gallo tutta la notte ci andava a cavallo
    E ci andava tanto bent, puesto e il gallo di Cicirinella

    Cicerenella aveva un asino, andava in giro vendendo brocolli
    e cavoli capucci. E vendeva tanto bene, questo e L’asinodi Cicerenella.

    Cicerenella aveva una bottoe, il vino che lei ci metevva di sopra uscieva di sotte
    e usciva tanto bene
    questa e l botte di cicerenella

    again excuse me for my spelling in dilect and italian. It’s 10:30 pm and i can’t see straight, running after a 2 and 4 year old.

    But thank you so much for this site, and let’s keep the Italian Heritage alive and well

    Tanti Saluti
    Maria Sabatino-Cabardo

  2. Lisa Says:

    Here’s an English translation of Cincirinella by Monique Palomares…

    Cincirinella had a rooster
    Riding a horse all night long
    And it was riding very well
    This is the rooster of Cincirinella

    Cincirinella had a donkey
    Walking around in circles selling broccoli
    And green cabbages
    And it was selling very well
    This is the donkey of Cincirinella

    Cincirinella had a cask
    The wine that he was pouring in its top (lit. putting)
    Was going out from its bottom
    And it was going out very well
    This is the cask of Cincirinella

    Thanks Monique!

  3. Lisa Says:

    Maria Sabatino-Cabardo wrote about La Befana…

    In my dad’s family, each child got oranges, nuts, a small toy (sometimes) and also a small lump of coal. Nonno said it was to remind them to be good! or else… Thanks for a great site, you have found a lot of songs I almost forgot from my childhood. And lets keep up the Italian traditions, in fact, all our mother countries traditions.

    thanks again
    Maria Sabatino-Cabardo
    http://www.pacificpearl.tv

  4. Katie Says:

    Hi, I love the Befana nursery rhyme and would like to teach it my children – only I don’t know the tune! Does it have a tune similar to any other
    rhyme?

    Many thanks,
    Katie

  5. Lisa Says:

    I believe it’s recited. If anyone would like to send a recording, of course I’d be happy to post one!

    It seems that the family leaves out for La Befana a tangerine or an orange and a glass of wine.

    She consumes both and leaves behind a handprint of ashes on the plate (that she got while coming down the fireplace).

  6. Lisa Says:

    Cecilia sent me this email…

    Hi Mama Lisa,

    I am trying to track down the English translation for these words that come from a version of “La Befana” that I have. I am currently on exchange to Canada from Australia, and don’t have any of my Italian friends with me to help!

    They are as follows

    La Befana…

    1 Ecco la Befana,
    Lallira, lirallera.
    Ecco la Befana
    Lallira, liralla.

    2 Cerca Gesu bambino,

    ‘Cerca gesu bambino’

    ‘Vola sopra i tetti’
    ‘Ha un sacco di regali’.

    I hope you can help me – I found this site quite by accident, and it is lovely!

    Cecilia Littlewood

    If anyone can help out, please comment below.

    Thanks! -Lisa

  7. Lisa Says:

    Monique Palomares sent me these translations…

    1 Here comes la Befana
    Lallira, lallira
    Here comes la Befana
    Lallira, lallira

    2 Look for Baby Jesus
    He’s flying above the roofs
    He has a bag of presents.

    Thanks Monique!

  8. nick ferrara Says:

    Your site brought back many memories my parents were from Roseto Valfortore immigrated to USA in 1920. like to add a verse i remember:in the Rosetano dialect, Cicerenella teneva nu cane muzicava li cristiani muzicava li donne bell’chist’e u cane di cicerenella. Cicerenella had a dog he bit all the christians[people] he bit all the pretty ladies,this is the dog of Cicerenella

  9. Maria Sabatino-Cabardo Says:

    Hello there:
    My parents were also from Roseto Valfortore and I just read this last entry about Cicerenella, I’ve never heard it. But its so cool!! I have to remember it. I asked my mother, and she remembers hearing it from her grandfather so it must be a long lost verse. Maybe there are more! Any one remember any others?

    Take care all and have a great day.

    Maria

  10. Jos'e Says:

    this site brought back memories of my birth when la befana was a memoir to me because it gave me a reason to be faithful to all of the people in Italy who worshipped and praised La Befana. your an inspiration so go out into the world knowing you make a difference in lives, hearts, souls and communities!!! your stunnning….BLAh

  11. Ann Says:

    I came across this site by accident and loved reading about everyone’s memories…it brought back a lot of my childhood! I have been on the search for a recipe for “Befanini”…my mother used to make them for La Befana when we were kids. Unfortunaltely, like almost all other Italian mothers, she never wrote down the recipe and now has passed. Has anyone heard of them or does anuyone have a recipe they’d like to share…I’d love to get it. Thanks and Have a great New Year filled with wonderful memories!

  12. Josie Policelli Says:

    Happy Easter.. Buona Pasqua to all!! April 11, 2009
    I was looking for a Roseto recipe for a soup made with baby lamb,
    spinach then a mixture of eggs and grated cheese is put over top cooks like a soufle and I came across this site. Very interesting. I was born in Roseto Valfortore, then my family came to Ontario, Canada in 1954. It would be totally eXciting to speak to others from Roseto.
    ~ Ciao .. Josie

  13. Yu-Chun Says:

    I was in the middle of the desert and a French-Indian gave me a laptop!!!

  14. Sunday Says:

    thanks so much for the great songs! My Nonna was from Cremona. A few years ago my father and I wrote a book about La Befana for my kids to help explain why we celebrate Epiphany in our house. We have always been the only family we knew of in our area that had La Befana visit us. It is great to hear other stories! If you are interested, the book is in verse and available through amazon.com: La Befana, and Italian Night after Christmas.

  15. Elaine Says:

    Does anyone know who orginally sang the La Befana song?

  16. Lisa Says:

    That looks interesting! I have the book called The Legend of Old Befana by Tomie de Paola.

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