Sorry for a break from the Saints, but I never turn down an opportunity to paint a witch.
La Befana comes from Italian folklore. She is an old woman that delivers gifts to children on Epiphany Eve (January 5th.) Aside from the fact that she’s an ugly old woman covered in soot riding a broom, she functions similarly to Santa Claus.
Historians believe that the legend derives from the Sabine/Roman goddess named Strina. Strenua was a goddess of the new year, purification and wellbeing in Ancient Rome.
So anyway… Befana visits the children of Italy and fills their stockings with presents. If they are good- they get candy, honey, small gifts, etc. If they are bad – they get coal or dark candy (I’m intrigued as to what constitutes “dark candy” because if it includes dark chocolate… well, I’ve been VERY BAD.)
In more rural areas of Italy, a stick is placed in the stocking (what a total bummer) instead of coal. ouch.
Her story is very similar to the tale of Babushka in Russia.
There is a great kid-friendly video of her story here (albeit with awesome/cheesy organ background music): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=w3xTzMsPbrk
another great version done at Epcot, can be seen here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=y84DKCskWjg