Santa as Italian housewife…

Main Story: Okay. And what about La Befana? It’s kind of like an Italian Santa Claus. Basically on the sixth of January…anyway…so the three wise men come looking for Baby Jesus and they knock on this old lady’s house. They’re dressed in these very rich robes. And she says she doesn’t know where Baby Jesus is or who he is. They ask her if she wants to come help them. She says she’s too busy and has too much housework. Then she realizes that she’s made a mistake and so she heads out looking for the wise men but can’t find them. So she stops every kid hoping that they are Baby Jesus and gives them so candy. So now in Italy on January 6th, La Befana flies around on her broomstick and gives candy to the good kids and coal to the bad ones. Kids are supposed to leave out some food and drink for her and she sweeps the floor before she leaves. It’s a lot like Santa Claus–she even comes down the chimney–but, unlike Santa, La Befana cleans up after herself.

Background Information: Dianne Burnett is my mom. Her dad is originally from Bari, Italy, and she grew up in New York City.

Context of the Performance: The story was performed in the kitchen of my mom’s house.

My Thoughts on the Piece: It’s really interesting to see the basic elements of the Santa story but different and in an Italian context. The idea of a person who gives children presents in conjunction with a holiday seems pretty common across cultures and it’s interesting to see the subtle variations between them. I really liked this story. I like Santa a lot but I also think La Befana is really fun and I’d never heard this story before. It was very cool to connect with a piece of my Italian heritage I didn’t know about before.