Today is 6 January, and today Christians celebrate the Epiphany, the revelation of God the Son as a human being in Jesus Christ. Western Christians commemorate principally the visitation of the Biblical Magi to the Baby Jesus. Together with the religious feast, in Italian folklore, 6 January is also the day of Befana.
In the book Vestiges of Ancient Manners and Customs, Discoverable in Modern Italy and Sicily by Rev. John J. Blunt, the author says Befana descends from the Sabine/Roman goddess of strength and endurance named Strenia. She is usually portrayed as an old lady riding a broomstick through the air wearing a black shawl and is covered in soot because she enters the children’s houses through the chimney. She visits all the children of Italy on the night of 5 January to fill their socks with candy and presents if they are good or a lump of coal or dark candy if they are bad. The child’s family typically leaves a small glass of wine and a plate with some food for her.
One of the legends about her story tells that she gave shelter to the Three Kings on their way to Bethlehem to see the Infant Jesus. They asked her to join them, but she declined. Later she changed her mind and tried to search out the Infant Jesus but she was unable to find him. Although she has been unsuccessful in her search, she still leaves gifts for good young children because the Christ Child can be found in all children.