Befana sweeps the festivities away
Across Italy, the saying ‘La Befana tutte le feste si porta via’ can be heard to express the end of the Christmas holidays. It literally translates as 'Befana takes the festivities away with her'. As in much of the Christian world, Italy’s Christmas festivities draw to a close around January 6th with the feast of Epiphany. But the night before, children across Italy have one more reason to get excited – a visit from the good witch Befana, who brings gifts for well-behaved children across the land.
Many believe Befana's name comes from the feast of Epiphany itself, which in Italian is pronounced ‘La Festa dell’Epifania’. Others think the tradition harks back to the Roman era, inspired by the goddess Strenia, who was celebrated at New Year and responsible for purification and well-being.
After leaving gifts, usually light colored candies for the good children, and dark ones for the mischievous, Befana sweeps the floor with her broomstick and flies away, taking the last of the festivities away with her and leaving Italy with the famous saying.