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Christmas Witch
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When I lived in Italy, the Christmas/Epiphany season was different from the American version. No Santa Claus, one or two gifts exchanged and a Christmas Eve midnight mass. The day was joyful, with friends and relatives visiting, talking and eating, eating, eating. I was a little disappointed about not having the usual gift-giving extravaganza, but the conviviality and laughter and food were wonderful.

Then, 12 days later, on Epiphany, we woke up to find gifts and gift-giving to commemorate the gifts the Magi gave the Christ Child, acknowledging His Divine Rule.

And my adopted family told me the story of La Befana, the witch of Christmas, who was met by the Magi on their way to Bethlehem, and told them, "I don't know anything. Don't bother me." After they left, she began to wonder and tried to follow them, but the sand had covered their tracks. And to this day, she is still searching for the Child.

I do not know if this was just a family story or more widespread in Italian lore, but it was a wonderful combination of Christmas and ghost stories, wrapped up into one tale. And Epiphany has always been, since that day, a special day for me.

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