La Befana Ornament in Wood Finish

La Befana is a traditional character in Italy associated with the Feast of the Epiphany, right after Christmas. She is depicted as a wisened old witch riding a broom, who swoops down chimneys to bring good children gifts, and bad children coal. Ä

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La Befana is a traditional character in Italy associated with the Feast of the Epiphany, right after Christmas. She is depicted as a wisened old witch riding a broom, who swoops down chimneys to bring good children gifts, and bad children coal. In legend, she was invited by the three Magi to visit the infant Jesus, but she declined, being too busy. She changed her mind eventually, but could not find them, so she still searches, leaving gifts at houses with children. There are variations on the story, and Befana's origins are said to lie in ancient pagan practices. Some claim she is derived from the Roman goddess Strina, who was associated with gifts of the new year. Her broom is an image of magic, of nature and rituals of agrarian fertility. There is a tradition across Europe with Celtic origins of burning an effigy resembling an old woman to usher in the new year. Befana shares similarities with the German goddess Perchta, the Icelandic ogress Gryla, and other female figures in folklore and myth, often celebrated near Christmas, and symbolizing good omens of abundance and prosperity to come.