La Befana is an old lady who brings toys to children in parts of Italy on Epiphany night. The Epiphany is when The Three Kings brought gifts to baby Jesus.

The legend is that on their way to deliver presents to Jesus, the Three Kings came across La Befana. They asked her to come with them, but she refused, saying she had too much housework to do. She later realized it had been wrong not to go with them. So she ran off with her broom in search of the Kings, bearing her own presents for the baby Jesus. But she never caught up to them. It's said that La Befana is still searching for the baby Jesus.

On Epiphany night, Befana goes around leaving presents for 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 chimneys to deliver toys for the girls and boys.

La Befana vien di notte - Italian Children's Songs - Italy - Mama Lisa's World: Children's Songs and Rhymes from Around the World  - Intro Image


*or "Col cappello alla romana" (same meaning)

The word "befana" comes from the Italian word "epifania", meaning Epiphany.


Maria Sabatino-Cabardo sent us the following version of the rhyme from Roseto Valfortore, a little mountain town in Puglia:

La Befana vien di notte,
con le scarpe tutte rotte,
ai bambini piccolini, lascia tanti cioccolatini
ai bambini cativoni, lascia cenere e carboni.


The Befana comes at night
In worn-out shoes.
For the small, little children she leaves a lot of little chocolates,
For the bad little children, she leaves ashes and coal.


You can read more about La Befana in Italy on Mama Lisa's Blog. Feel free to join our discussion in the comments!



Many thanks to Emanuela for reciting this rhyme for us!


Thanks to Monique Palomares for reciting this for us!

Please let us know if you think this video has been taken down by YouTube.
Please let us know if you think this video has been taken down by YouTube.

Thanks and Acknowledgements

Many thanks to Maria Sabatino-Cabardo for sending the alternate version of the rhyme.

Image: Flight of the Witches (Detail), Martin Le France, 1451.

Grazzie mille!