The Italian “Befana” is a dirty and ugly old woman, who brings sweets and other gifts to the good children and soot, garlic or coal to the naughty ones on Epiphany Eve (January 5). January 6th is a public holiday.
The name befana is thought to be a result of the Italian mispronunciation of the Greek word epiphany.
The epiphany commemorates the arrival of the three wise men bringing gifts for the infant Jesus. According to the story they had met an old woman during their voyage and invited her to come along. She refused, but later decided to come anyway. Unfortunately she got lost and never made it to the manger.
In Rome it is the Piazza Navona that is most closely associated with the Befana celebrations and it is also her that in the days leading up to Christmas and to the Befana itself a market can be found, where mostly sweets are sold.