E. Cobham Brewer 18101897. Dictionary of Phrase and Fable. 1898.
The good fairy of Italian children, who is supposed to fill their stockings with toys when they go to bed on Twelfth Night. Some one enters the childrens bedroom for the purpose, and the wakeful youngsters cry out, Ecco la Befana. According to legend, Befana was too busy with house affairs to look after the Magi when they went to offer their gifts, and said she would wait to see them on their return; but they went another way, and Befana, every Twelfth Night, watches to see them. The name is a corruption of Epiphania.