Is Santa’s Befana a real legend? The Christmas Witch Explained


Warning! SPOILERS on The Santa Clauses episode 3 ahead.

by Disney Santa Clauses episode 3 sees Santa the sequel features the Befana, who Scott describes as a witch – here’s the Christmas witch and the legend behind the character explained. Scott’s (Tim Allen) realization that the best he could do for his family would be to quit his job as Santa by Santa Clauses episode 2 forces his daughter Sandra (Elizabeth Allen-Dick) to seek help and support in the Wobbly Woods. Indeed, in addition to the animals and her family, there is someone else Sandra trusts enough to confide in, someone whom Scott/Santa calls the Christmas witch in Santa Clauses episode 3, but who prefers to be called by her original name, Befana (Laura San Giacomo).


by Disney Santa Clauses accurately depicts the Befana, which is, to this day, still a Christmas staple for those celebrating the holiday in Italy. The caption behind the Befana describes her as a disheveled old lady bringing sweets or charcoal to children depending on whether they had misbehaved or been judged good, just as the Christmas witch explains in Santa Clauses episode 3. The legend of Befana is kept alive in Italy with nursery rhymes, and the character is celebrated on Epiphany Day and before when markets dedicated to her appear in Italian town squares to mark the end of the holidays of Christmas.

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How the Christmas Witch Compares to Santa Claus in Italian Folklore

Laura San Giacomo as Christmas Witch and Tim Allen as Santa Claus in The Santa Clauses

Santa Claus and the Befana coexist in Italian folklore and are thought to share similarities with religious figures like Saint Nick in the case of Santa Claus (similar to other European countries and more) and Saint Lucia for the Befana. Santa Clauses‘ The Christmas Witch alludes to Befana’s seniority, and while she does so jokingly, she takes aim at old-time rules that prevented witches from “get a sled loan without a wizard to co-sign,“, she reveals something true about the legend that inspired her character. Indeed, while Santa Claus has been a part of Italian Christmas celebrations relatively recently, the Befana has been around for longer.

Why Befana is considered a witch in Christmas legend

Laura San Giacomo as Christmas witch La Befana in Santas

No special powers have been attributed to the Befana according to legend. However, given her somewhat unkempt appearance – a famous Italian nursery rhyme mentions her dilapidated shoes – her advanced age and the use of a broom to get around, it would make sense for the Befana to be mistaken for a witch. Still, Santa Clauses‘ Befana is keen to separate herself from the more general witches, and technically Scott is right Santa Clauses episode 3 when he uses the offensive term hag to define her rather than considering her a witch, as that would be the exact translation of the name.

Religious versions of the legend credit the Befana with bringing sweets or charcoal to the children as a way to make up for the refusal of the 3 Sages to go with them to visit the infant Jesus. However, marking the arrival of winter with the presence of old female figures dating back to pagan times and even ancient Rome, when it was believed that female figures would fly over fields on broomsticks to bless the harvest futures in the 12 nights between the winter solstice and the Sol Celebration of the invictus. Whether pagan or religious, Befana-type figures have existed in Italian folklore for centuries, and their presence has always had a positive connotation, making the use of the witch to describe the Befana slightly counterintuitive.

Is Santa’s Christmas Witch good or bad?

Laura San Giacomo as Christmas Witch in Santas

La Befana is a central character in Santa Clauses episode 3, although he only appears briefly. Although mentioning the word witch to Simon (Kal Penn) worries her, especially believing her daughter to be in her company, and Scott/Santa’s attitude towards the Christmas witch is neutral at best, the Befana is in makes a positive character even in Santa Clauses. The character of Laura San Giacomo embodies the qualities of the Italian folklore figure, as she is shown to be supportive of Sandra.

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Indeed, the only reason Sandra and Grace (Rupali Redd) end up in the Wobbly Woods is because Sandra needs help and support from someone outside of her family, as they are all excited to get away from the North Pole. The Christmas Witch is not only shameless on her side, but she’s also key in making Scott realize that Sandra’s feelings have been overlooked. With a bit of luck, Santa Clauses will continue to honor various Christmas traditions, just as it did with Befana of Italian folklore.

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