One of my fondest childhood memories is that of hanging a big stocking at the foot of the bed on the eve of the feast of the Epiphany, January 5th.
Many children, like me, on that magical night would impatiently await the arrival of the Befana. We would dream of receiving toys and goodies from the kind old lady. Some of us would also have nightmares of waking up to stockings stuffed with ashes and charcoal instead.
The legend has it that, during that night that “was so deep”, the dear old lady had an encounter with the Magi who were on their way to pay homage to baby Jesus. The three Kings invited her to join them on their journey to Bethlehem. But she refused claiming that she was too busy with household chores.
After some reflection, however, she realized that perhaps she should have followed the three illustrious dignitaries coming from the East. She grabbed her magic broom and flew out the door in a desperate effort to reach Gaspar and company.
Alas, she was not able to find the three voyageurs even with her ion charged flying broom. When a unique life-changing opportunity is missed, many of us often try to desperately go back and recapture that moment over and over again, even though most of the time it may be too late.
And so, two thousand years later, the good Befana is still trying to find the grotto in Bethlehem. She travels from house to house searching and delivering gifts to good boys and girls just as the Magi brought gold, frankincense and myrrh to baby Jesus.
Times and customs have indeed changed and certainly the tradition of the Befana has been replaced by that of Santa Claus. But even today from the story of the Befana we can extract a moral for children and grownups alike.
Aside from the obvious adage that good children will receive gifts as just recompense for their good deeds, in my opinion there is a deeper moral here and that is to do good whenever the opportunity presents itself even if we are taken up with our busy everyday schedule.