11. Italy’s Befana
Don’t waste your time asking Santa Claus for presents on Christmas Eve in Italy. An ugly yet kind old witch named Befana (‘giver of gifts’) controls the gift-giving duties instead. As per tradition on the eve of Epiphany – January 5 – obliging parents leave out a plate of regional cuisine (often broccoli with spiced sausage and a glass of wine) for Befana. Flying around the world by broomstick and entering each house by chimney, the good witch delivers toys, clothing and candy to well-behaved children. Come the morning of January 6, happy faces awake to a bounty of treats tucked into their stockings.
(Photo courtesy of Daniele Muscetta/Flickr)