So when I asked Fabrizio what La Befana means to him, he says that if you're good you get chocolate and small gifts, but if you're bad you get coal.
So we both got a bit of chocolate today!
He also said that she's mean, so she takes Christmas away with her. Hence the tradition of taking down the Christmas decorations on the 6th, is away with Befana (which looks a bit like a derivative of the world epiphany)
Here's an excerpt from "Christmas in Abruzzo" about Befana and another by the About site. Fabrizio sang me the little ditty when he saw that I had included it. It seems to be a childhood rhyme. And tomorrow, well...it's back to work for everyone and the yuletide season is over and put to bed for another year, Bye bye Befana!
La Befana vien di notte
con le scarpe tutte rotte
col vestito alla "romana"
viva viva la Befana !!
Porta cenere e carboni
The Befana comes by night
With her shoes all broken
With a dress in Roman style
Up, up with the Befana !!
She brings ashes and coal
The name Befana appeared historically for the first time in writing in a poem by Agnolo Firenzuola in 1549. She is portrayed like an old ugly woman, dressed in dark rags who during the night between 5th and 6th January flies over the houses riding her broom and entering through the chimneys (in modern apartments through a keyhole). Into the socks that children left hanging near the fireplace she leaves candies and gifts for good children, black coal (actually black sugar today), garlic and onions to the bad ones. Parents of course would always include some coal over the gifts, to cheat their children. And the night before the family leaves some wine and cakes for the old lady."Another version from About:Italian Language
"La Befana: Kindly old witch who brings children toys on the Feast of the Epiphany, January 6. According to the legend of la Befana, the Three Wise Men stopped at her hut to ask directions on their way to Bethlehem and to invite her to join them. She refused, and later a shepherd asked her to join him in paying respect to the Christ Child. Again she refused, and when night fell she saw a great light in the skies.
La Befana thought perhaps she should have gone with the Three Wise Men, so she gathered some toys that had belonged to her own child, who had died, and ran to find the kings and the shepherd. But la Befana could not find them or the stable. Now, each year she looks for the Christ Child. Since she can not find him, she leaves gifts for the children of Italy and pieces of coal (nowadays carbone dolce, a rock candy that looks remarkably like coal) for the bad ones."