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Origin of the name BEFFANA.
Etymology of the name BEFFANA.
Meaning of the baby name BEFFANA.


BEFFANA.  Italian form of Latin Epiphania (q.v.), meaning "forth showing; of the manifestation."

    Some of the Italians devoutly believed that Gaspardo, Melchiorre, and Baldassare, were the three sons of St. Beffana, as they had come to call Ephiphania; but, in general, Beffana had not nearly so agreeable an association.
    In Italy the Epiphany was, and still is, the day for the presentation of Christmas gifts; and it is likely that the pleasant fiction that la Beffana brought the presents, turned, as in other cases, such as that of St. Nicholas, into the notion that she was a being who went about by night, and must therefore be uncanny.  Besides, when the carnival was over, there was a sudden immolation of the remaining weeks of the Epiphany; and whether from thus personifying the season, or from whatever other cause, a figure was suspended outside the doors of houses at the beginning of Lent, and called la Beffana.  It is now a frightful black doll, with an orange at her feet, and seven skewers thrust through her, one of which is pulled out at the end of each week in Lent; at least, this is the case in Apulia, where she is considered as a token that those who exhibit her, mean to observe a rigorous fast.
    Some parts of Italy account for the gibbeting of the unfortunate Beffana, by saying she was the daughter of Herod, i.e. Herodias; and Berni (as quoted by Grimm) says in his rhymes:
    "Il di Befania, vo porla per Befana alla finestra, / Perchè qualcun le dia d'una ballestra."
    At Florence, however, the story was told in an entirely different way.  There it is said that Beffana was the Christian name of a damsel of the Epifania family before-mentioned; that she offended the fairies, and was by them tempted to eat a sausage in Lent, for which transgression she was sawn asunder in the piazza, and has ever since been hung in effigy at the end of the carnival, as a warning to all beholders.
    In fact, Beffana is the Italian bugbear of naughty children; and it is no wonder that this strange embodiment of the gift-bringing day should not be followed as a Christian name,... (History of Christian Names, Yonge, 1884)


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