Although many children presently get gifts from Father Christmas on Christmas Eve, "La Befana," the old woman who gives gifts on Epiphany Eve, is a particularly Italian custom. According to legend, the Three Wise Men visited her home and encouraged her to join them in their search for Christ. So on Epiphany Eve, children go to church to pray for a good gift from "Befana." Then, after Mass, they go outside to look for visitors' cars in their neighborhoods. If you see cars parked on your street, there might be something special inside!
Father Christmas/Befana is known by different names throughout Italy. In Veneto, he is called "Papa Noel" or "Buon Natale"; in Lombardy, he is called "St. Nicholas"; and in Piedmont, he is referred to as "Il Redentore." However, his identity remains the same -- the kindly old man who visits children on Epiphany Eve and gives them gifts.
In Sicily, "Santa Claus" is known as "Santuzza" and he brings toys instead of gifts. This custom arose because parents were afraid that their children would spend money buying gifts for others if "Santa Claus" brought any cash with him on his visit. Instead, they told them to make a list of what they wanted and Santuzza would bring those items to them.
Befana In Italian tradition, Befana (pronounced [be'fa:na]) is an old lady who, like St. Nicholas or Santa Claus, brings presents to children throughout Italy on Epiphany Eve (the night of January 5). According to popular belief, her name stems from the Feast of the Three Kings (Italian: Festa dell'Epifania). She has similar attributes and duties as those two saints - delivering gifts to children - but instead of traveling by horse or reindeer, she uses a broomstick. There are various stories about how she became associated with Christmas; some say that she was born on December 24 like Jesus, while others claim she was born during the Holy Roman Empire when many different cultures came together to celebrate a common holiday.
In the Veneto region it is traditional for families to make dolls representing the saints. These "befana" dolls are dressed up in clothes decorated with buttons and ribbons and placed under the Christmas tree to protect the house from evil spirits. Sometimes groups of befanci (little befanas) are sent out into the neighborhood to visit all the homes in order to give protection to everyone living there.
It is said that if you place treats underneath your pillow at bedtime, Befana will bring you some the next day. This is particularly important if you are alone at home during Christmas Day because then you can't go to church or play with friends - you have to stay inside and sleep! - so the spirit world sends Befana to keep watch over you.
Befana is an unusual Italian folk ritual that keeps youngsters entertained and offers them something to look forward to following the Christmas and New Year vacations.
Children leave a glass of wine and tangerines for Santa. On the night of January 5, the Feast of the Epiphany, Santa is known as Baba Natale, although most gifts are delivered by La Befana, a Christmas witch.
Children in Italy refer to Santa Claus as "Babbo Natale." In Italy, he is getting more popular for gift giving on Christmas Day, but La Befana, the elderly woman who brings gifts on the 6th of January, is still more popular.
In Germany, the Christkind wears a red suit because gold or silver colors are used to decorate churches during the Christmas season. The color red was also used by Martin Luther when he wrote his famous "Ninety-Five Theses" protesting against abuses by the Catholic Church in Wittenberg, Germany.
France's Père Noël gives gifts to children with his team of reindeer. They travel through the streets singing Christmas carols and stopping at homes to deliver presents. Children write letters to Père Noel asking for what they want for Christmas. When the reindeer feel like it has been enough time since someone asked for them, they fly away back to their home in Siberia. Adults tell stories about how Père Noel came to be on French soil during Christmas time. Some people say he was deported because he was Russian while others say he escaped from prison!
Italy's Santo uses his team of four horses to deliver gifts to children on Christmas Eve.
The narrative of Befana giving gifts is similar to that of Babushka. The Three Kings may bring you more than Befana in some places of northern Italy. On Christmas Day, "Babbo Natale" (Santa Claus) may bring them some modest gifts, but the primary day for gift giving is on the Feast of the Three Kings (Epiphany). They are usually small gifts, such as oranges and candies, but sometimes they can be more substantial.
During the Christmas season, people like to visit their neighbors and offer gifts, known as "regali". These can be anything from food and drink to flowers and jewelry. In Italian families, it is common for each person in the family to have a list of regali they have saved up for others. As the name suggests, these gifts are given only once a year during the Christmas season. After Christmas, people go back to their usual lives without any special celebrations or holidays marking the end of the year.
In conclusion, yes, Santa Claus does deliver presents in Italy. He/she visits every house in which a child has asked him/her to come. If there isn't anyone at home, he/she leaves the present under the Christmas tree.
In Italy, the Epiphany, sometimes known as Little Christmas, is a celebration for children. On the eve of the Epiphany, La Befana walks around offering gifts to good children and lumps of coal to naughty children. This tradition dates back hundreds of years when Pope Clement VI declared 3 January to be the day to give gifts to children. The pope called this event "La Befana" which means "the witch" in Italian because poor families used to believe that a witch would come on New Year's Eve to take them away to hell if they didn't give her something to eat and drink.
Today, most Italians celebrate the Epiphany on January 6th, but some people still celebrate it on January 5th. The traditional gift for children is either candy or nuts.
The word "candy" comes from the Arabic kanadu, which in turn comes from the Persian kand, which means "sweetness". Thus, candy is sweetness on earth that has been refined out of all measure!
Epiphany is also the name given to the biblical story that tells how Jesus' presence was revealed to the world in the form of a star. Therefore, it makes sense that on this day you would find stars made into gifts for children.
Italy. Children leave a glass of wine and tangerines for Santa. On the night of January 5, the Feast of the Epiphany, Santa is known as Baba Natale, although most gifts are delivered by La Befana, a Christmas witch. She leaves cookies and milk for the kids who have been good, but also coins if they've been naughty.
In addition to giving out toys, Santa makes and delivers food packages to poor families. These consist of meats, cheeses, vegetables, and fruits that he has personally selected and bought on his trip back from the North Pole where he lives.
Santa's home town is Saint Nicholas Church in Demre, Turkey, but he has houses all over the world. There are even some places where you can see photos of your family room sitting under the tree!
His official job is to give gifts to good girls and boys, but he has been known to break down doors, lift heavy sacks, and even fly around with his reindeer. One thing is for sure, there would be no Christmas without Father Christmas!