The Story of La Befana
In a far away country in the east, there lived a very old woman. She loved children but did not have any because she had never married – she had always been too busy: she took good care of her house that was spotless and of her garden where she planted her vegetables and where she also kept a couple of chickens so she could have an egg for supper once in a while.
She was by now old and ugly and people called her a good witch. Sometimes a neighbor came over for a visit but they were soon dismissed because she was too busy. One day the village turned very excited at the arrival of a caravan of camels and special handlers, and at its head, three kings. She heard they had been following a star by night and were looking for a new born king and she thought how wonderful it would be to follow the caravan, but she had no time.
A while after the caravan had left she was sorry she had not gone with them and decided to buy lots of candy and good gifts to bring in her sack to the new baby, and started out to find him. But as she traveled around the country, she saw many children without toys, and, not being able to find the caravan nor the baby king, she decided to give her candy and toys to those children.
And this is the reason in Italy and some other countries, on the night before the 6th of January (the day the Magi arrived at the manger and Jesus), la Befana (from the word Epiphany) arrives in the homes where children are to stuff their stockings with candies and toys.