L is for La Befana (and Lego)

Monday 12 December 2011

Father Christmas is known by many names around the world. In France he is Père Noël, in the Netherlands he is Sinter Klaus and in China he is known as Sing Dan Lo Yan (which is literally ‘Christmas Old Man’). Although the idea of a beneficent bringer of gifts at Christmas time is almost universal in Christian countries the world over, it isn’t always Santa Claus who does the honours.

In Spain and South America it is the Three Kings who brings presents, just as they gave gifts to the Christ child. And in Italy it is a kindly old witch called La Befana who gives children sweets if they’ve been good and a piece of coal if they haven’t.

According to the legend of La Befana, the three wise men stopped at her home on their way to pay homage to the Christ child, and invited her to go with them. But La Befana had lost her own child to plague and found the prospect of seeing another baby too upsetting.

But after the wise men had left she changed her mind. She set of in pursuit on her broomstick (as you do when you’re a witch) but never found the Magi again. Instead, every time she came across a good child’s stocking she filled it with toys and sweets in an effort to make up for her foolishness.

And here's La Befana realised in Lego.

You can check out some gigantic La Befana effigies here!

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You will find many other such interesting tidbits of information in my book What is Myrrh Anyway?- and its American counterpart Christmas Miscellany: Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Christmas.


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