I don’t know about you, but if I can wedge Halloween into any other holiday, I absolutely will. Sure, everyone is already familiar with the Halloween-meets-Christmas crossover The Nightmare Before Christmas, but what if I told you the Italians figured out how to do a holiday mashup long before Tim Burton ever did? Move over, Mrs. Claus, because La Befana, the wine-drinking, cheer-spreading, gift-giving Christmas witch is the heroine this holiday really needs. The legend of La Befana began in Southern Italy, when the biblical magi – AKA the Three Wise Men – paid her a visit on their way to attend birth of Jesus. Turns out they just need to stop and ask for directions, because their North Star GPS was sending them in circles. La Befana, being the eternal homemaker she was, decided to let the wandering wise men take refuge with her for the night, as she had the nicest, most well-kept house in the entire village. The men accepted, and in thanks, asked the old woman to accompany them to witness the birth of Christ. Much like any sane woman would if three strange men showed up and asked her to wander off into the wilderness with them, La Befana declined, citing way too much housework to take care of, which was sort of that era’s version of, ‘I can’t – I’m washing my hair’. A few days later, La Befana realized she may have had made a huge mistake, and that witnessing the birth of humanity’s savior might be, I don’t know, kind of important. La Befana headed out into the night in search of the travelers, but unfortunately her sense of direction was even worse than the Three Wise Men’s. She never did manage to find the birthplace of Jesus, and she’s since spent the past 2000 years wandering the planet searching for her destination, leaving toys for all of the good little children, and coal, onions, and garlic for the bad ones.
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