La Befana vien di notte
Con le scarpe tutte rotte
Col vestito alla romana
Viva, Viva La Befana!
The Italian tradition of La Befana is based on a popular legend. When the Magi were looking for the baby Jesus they stopped at the house of an old woman, to ask for directions. The woman was well known for her excellent hospitality and took pride in her home. The Magi stayed over for the night, and the next day as they took their leave they asked the woman to accompany them on their search for the infant Jesus. However, she declined, saying that she had too much to do keeping her home tidy.
After the Magi left, the woman had a strange feeling that she had made a huge mistake, and rushed after them, but without success. She was unable to find them, and to this day continues her search on the night of the 5th every year. In her search, she will leave gifts for all the good young children she meets, however all the bad children get just a lump of coal!
It's a nice treat for the children, and it is funny to see their faces when they get coal! (After all, almost all children have been naughty at some point during the year!) But of course, there is often a nice treat for them too, as they have their moments of good behaviour also.