The Witches of Christmas

There are kindred spirits who would like to make Halloween a year-round thing, and that's understandable. It's not exactly new. In the Victorian era, there was nothing odd about telling ghost stories at Christmas parties or sending Christmas cards with witches on them. In fact, some witches are connected with Christmas in folklore going back centuries.

(Image credit: Eleonora Gianinetto

In the first season of the Disney+ series The Santa Clauses, the new character Befana was introduced. She's also called the Christmas Witch. Befana is a familiar character in Italian folklore. The legendary witch is an old woman who magically bestows gifts for good little boys and girls on Epiphany eve (January 5). The character dates back to pagan times, but legends of her origin have since become associated with baby Jesus. Befana may be an old hag who rides a broom, but she's a welcome character in Italy.

(Image credit: Thorsteinn1996

She's not the only legendary Christmas witch. In Iceland, Grýla is a much more sinister witch, a giantess who may come and snatch up naughty children to eat. She hovers over the landscape in midwinter, symbolizing the dangers of the cold. Like Befana, the malevolent Grýla predates Christmas celebrations, but was eventually incorporated into the religious holiday, like the Yule Lads who are supposedly her sons.

If you like the idea of a Christmas witch, you'll enjoy the 2018 Italian movie The Legend of the Christmas Witch. YouTube has the full movie dubbed in English.

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