Today (January 6) is the Feast of the Epiphany, which means that last night La Befana visited children throughout Italy, filling the stockings of good little boys and girls with sweets and treats and leaving coal (or a stick, in Sicily) to the bad ones. Children set out for her – not cookies and milk – but red wine and traditional local sweets. She comes down through the chimney so is covered in soot, but uses her enchanted broom (which she rides from house to house) to sweep up before she leaves, brushing away not only the soot but also all of the problems of the previous year.
Sound a bit familiar?
OK so obviously there are a lot of differences, but until recent years when Babbo Natale (Father Christmas) has become more popular in Italy, La Befana was the star of the Christmas holiday (and might still be!).