These charming holiday elves are on display at a Christmas market in Pergine Valsugana, a destination in northern Italy that embraces its legends of gnomes, dwarves, and elves who descend from the mountains bearing holiday treats. Italy isn’t the only region where mountain dwellers are incorporated into holiday traditions. In Iceland, it’s trolls who take the spotlight. Today’s date marks the first of the Yule Lad visits, an Icelandic tradition involving 13 trolls who deliver presents—or punishments—each night before Christmas Eve. Tonight’s visitation is from Sheep-Cote Clod, who harasses sheep. Other lads include Spoon-Licker, Door-Slammer, and Sausage-Swiper. Look out!
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A gnome is a diminutive spirit in Renaissance magic and alchemy, first introduced by Paracelsus in the 16th century and later adopted by more recent authors including those of modern fantasy literature. Its characteristics have been reinterpreted to suit the needs of various story tellers, but it is typically said to be a small humanoid that lives underground.