The Italian Catholic Club of SCV held its annual La Befana Dinner in celebration of the Feast of the Epiphany, or Three Kings Day, at Our Lady of Perpetual Help’s Hall Sunday afternoon.
Like Santa Claus, traditional Italian folklore tells the tale of La Befana, who visits all of the children in Italy and leaves them gifts on Three Kings Day.
Because La Befana had missed the opportunity to travel with the Three Wise Men to bring gifts to the baby Jesus, she now gives gifts to children who’ve been good every year on the day the wise men visited Jesus.
After calling to her by singing a song, children in attendance were able to visit with La Befana, who was portrayed by a man as is typical in Italian tradition.
“In Venice, Italy, you would see all the gondoliers, dressing like little, old ladies — it’s traditional,” said Anna Riggs, club president.
In addition to the visit, attendees enjoyed a marionette show and a full Italian meal.
“To have an Italian Catholic Club is great — a lot of heritage, culture and art is witnessed here,” said Teri Venditto Sullivan, a club member. “It’s great for the kids. It’s great for the family. It’s great for the community. It’s great all around.”
Sullivan had never heard of La Befana before attending the event, but said she’s excited to share the story with her family back in Italy.
For Riggs, it’s a little taste of home. “When I left Italy, we just had La Befana, we didn’t have Santa Claus,” she said, adding that it was only in the 70s that they adopted Santa.
Riggs then brought the tradition with her when she immigrated to the United States.
“My grandchildren, my children and my great-grandchildren are all getting gifts,” she said.