con le scarpe tutte rotte
col cappello alla romana
viva viva la Befana!
Hand-made cut glass by an Austrian artist
at the Schönbrunn Christmas market
"Legend has it that on the 12th night of Christmas (January 5th) the 3 Wise Men, on their search for the baby Jesus, asked “La Befana” to join them in their quest. She initially declined, stating she had too much housework to do. She later changed her mind and went looking for the 3 Wise Men and the baby Jesus, but was unable to find them.
Therefore, every year, on the night of January 5th, “La Befana”, will travel on her magic broom, to every house in Italy in search of the baby Jesus bringing gifts. Climbing down the chimneys, she brings candy (“caramele”) or fruit to the children that were good and black coal (“carbone”), onions or garlic to the children that were naughty. The children will leave out their stockings, and even their shoes, hoping to awake on the morning of January 6th to some “caramele”."
Text from the Italian-Link Community.
You'll find more information about the Italian Christmas tradition of "La Befana" and a translation of the Befana poem at their Befana site.