Updated: Dec 21, 2020
By Kore Ravensea
© 2020 Kore Ravensea. All rights reserved.
The Winter Solstice is here, and for many parents in the Pagan world, that means celebrating the secular version of Christmas.
Santa Claus is as integrated into our American culture as Fourth of July fireworks or eating turkey for Thanksgiving dinner. But why stop at celebrating with Santa? Did you know that there is an Italian witch called La Befana, who visits children on January 5th, the eve of the Epiphany? Like Santa, this wonderful witch goes house to house delivering gifts, but she also stands as a symbol of empowerment for witches everywhere.
There are numerous books available for children on La Befana. Our personal bookshelf features The Legend of Old Befana, which I read to our child every January 5th. Of course, there are many other stories that are available at the click of a button. Some are even available on YouTube or in PDF versions. There is also a lovely tribute to her, available on Amazon Prime, called The Legend of the Christmas Witch. Granted, this is not just the origin story of La Befana, it also features a comical villain who kidnaps her and tries to steal her job. This really is a great way to bond with your child and celebrate the beloved witch.
So, how can we normalize witchcraft in our culture? Let's start by celebrating witches like dear La Befana with our children.
There are several things about Befana that make her special, and make children want to celebrate her. Here are some of my favorite seasonal celebrations and activities associated with La Befana:
Befana visits on the eve of the Epiphany. “Epiphany” roughly translates to “manifestation of deity”. What a lovely way to strike up a conversation about deity with your children
Befana is known to bring candy, nuts and other sweets, as well as presents. This a great opportunity to stuff your children’s stocking with nuts and clementines, rather than tradition sweets, to teach them about celebrating healthy foods
Befana is known as a “strega”, which is the Italian word for “witch”. However, her name is said to be derived from the Goddess, Strenia. This Goddess was known to deliver nuts, fruits and honey, just like Befana. Use this opportunity to discuss the Goddess’s presence within all of us
Lastly, although the legend of Befana depicts the witch in stereotypical fashion (long nose, pointy hat, large boots), this is an opportunity to discuss how witches come in all shapes and sizes, male/female and other. What an empowering way for children to recognize themselves as witches!
So snuggle up this Epiphany, Christmas Eve or Yule with your children, pour yourself a glass of hot cocoa, and watch the story of La Befana, the witch who has brought joy to Italian children for generations.
Have a Merry Yule all, and Blessed Be!