In Italian tradition la Befana is an old, ugly, witch-like woman, who brings gifts to good children on Epiphany night.
La Befana flies on a scopa (‘broom’) with a big sack full of candies and gifts, she puts candies into kids’ socks
Naughty kids will find carbone (coal) or parmigiano or polenta or stones instead of candies…
But very often it’s just candy-carbone!
The name Befana, comes from Epifania (‘Epiphany’), the legend says that an old woman helped the three kings to find their way to Bethlehem. But the tradition originates also from the Latin goddess of the new-year Strenia, who was also symbol of fortune and prosperity.
The night before the Epifania, waiting for the Befana we also put i re magi (‘the three kings’) in the Presepe