Storyteller by Sarah Evans

December 16, 2014 § 2 Comments

La Befana

La Befana

Another Holiday Smile contest winner:

“Storyteller,” said the small sign leaning against a pole in the corner. Next to it, a gray-haired flannel and jeans man, his spectacles perched on the end of his nose, sat on a log bench. Elsewhere in the room, families crafted snowflakes from paper, ornaments from twigs and games from fresh-cut tree rounds and acorns.

I’d brought my two boys to this old-fashioned Christmas celebration seeking comfort, simplicity, something less commercial than the typical ask-Santa-for-presents event. I assumed my three-year-old would gravitate to the game-making, but he stared at the storyteller.

“Do you want to hear a story?” I asked. My son nodded, and we took a seat on a back-row bench. Several older children filed in front of us, and the man began.

His forehead crinkled, his eyebrows vibrated to the rhythm of a tale of the old woman Befana, always sweeping her house, refusing to join a parade of people going by in search of baby Jesus. The storyteller wagged his pointer finger to punctuate Befana’s ultimate regret, followed by her search for the baby by flying on her broom from house to house, leaving presents in her wake.

“And that,” the storyteller said, “is the story of the first Santa Claus.” He leaned back, rested his hands on his thighs. “Betcha didn’t know that Santa was a witch.”

The older children smiled, rose and moved on to make crafts. I looked down at my boy, surprised to see he hadn’t moved an inch since the story started. “Are you ready to go do something else?” I asked.

He didn’t take his eyes off the storyteller. “I want to hear another story.”

I caressed his head, grinning, and sat back with him to savor one of the oldest traditions of all.


Sarah Evans is an Oregon writer and editor of the online magazine Salem Is ( She is a graduate of the MFA in writing program at Pacific University.


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