According to Italian legend, La Befana was a witch living at the time of the birth of Jesus. The three wise men (also known as the three kings) were on their way to Bethlehem, when they invited La Befana to come along. She was busy with her housework and declined. Later, once she had finished her cleaning, she set off on her broomstick with toys for the Gesú Bambino (Baby Jesus). However, she could not find the Three Kings and soon lost her way. Italian children believe that La Befana is still looking for Baby Jesus, and on the eve of the Epiphany, she flies down the chimney (or, if a chimney is not available, the keyhole) of each house, and leaves gifts in the children’s shoes, which are left by the fireplace (or by the door if; there is no fireplace,) just in case Baby Jesus is there.
Read more at Suite101: Christmas in Italy: Italian Holiday Traditions
It should be noted that Children leave her a glass of wine and a plate of food. Also, being such a conscientious housekeeper, she will also sweep your floors, so that your house is clean on Epiphany morning.
Happy Epiphany to each and all.