Archives: December 2016

Christmas in other countries: The 13 Santas Of Iceland

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The Yule Lads

The 13 Santas Of Iceland



Children in Iceland leave their shoes on their window sill for the 13 nights before Christmas Eve. This is because for the 13 nights before Christmas they will be visited by one of Iceland’s 13 Santas – the Yule Lads (or yulemen).

If the children have been good, they may be left a small treat, a sweet or a chocolate – but if they are bad, they will be left a raw potato in their shoe.

But the children of Iceland are not lucky having 13 santas. Each Yule Lad is is the son of the evil troll woman, Grýla The Child Eater – each Yule Lad has his own speciality, and will try to steal and cause mischief for the children and their families.

In addition to the 13 Yule Lads, the children should also be careful of Grýla’s pet – the Yuletide Cat, which will eat any child who does not recieve new clothing for Christmas.

The 13 Yule Lads

Each night in the two weeks before Christmas, one of the Yule Lads will come down from the mountains around Dimmuborgir – each Yule Lad will remain largely hidden and will cause trouble around the homes and farms of Iceland. Each will remain for two weeks, leaving one at a time in the two weeks following Christmas.

Name Icelandic Description Arrival Departure
Sheep-Cote Clod Stekkjastaur Harasses sheep, but is impaired by his stiff peg-legs. December 12 December 25
Gully Gawk Giljagaur Hides in gullies, waiting for an opportunity to sneak into the cowshed and steal milk. December 13 December 26
Stubby Stúfur Abnormally short. Steals pans to eat the crust left on them. December 14 December 27
Spoon Licker Þvörusleikir Steals Þvörur (a type of a wooden spoon with a long handle) to lick. Is extremely thin due to malnutrition. December 15 December 28
Pot Scraper Pottaskefill Steals leftovers from pots. December 16 December 29
Bowl Licker Askasleikir Hides under beds waiting for someone to put down their ‘askur’ (a type of bowl with a lid used instead of dishes), which he then steals. December 17 December 30
Door Slammer Hurðaskellir Likes to slam doors, especially during the night. December 18 December 31
Skyr Gobbler Skyrgámur A Yule Lad with an affinity for skyr (an Icelandic dairy product a bit like natural yoghurt). December 19 January 1
Sausage Swiper Bjúgnakrækir Would hide in the rafters and snatch sausages that were being smoked. December 20 January 2
Window Peeper Gluggagægir A voyeur who would look through windows in search of things to steal. December 21 January 3
Doorway Sniffer Gáttaþefur Has an abnormally large nose and an acute sense of smell which he uses to locate laufabrauð. December 22 January 4
Meat Hook Ketkrókur Uses a hook to steal meat. December 23 January 5
Candle Stealer Kertasníkir Follows children in order to steal their candles (which in those days was made of tallow and thus edible). December 24 January 6

Other Important Characters

Name Icelandic Description
Gryla The Child Eater Grýla An Icelandic troll, mother of the Yule Lads.
Leppaludi Leppalúði Lazy wretch and father of the Yule Lads.
The Yuletide Cat Jólaköttur Grýla’s pet cat, that eats children who do not receive new clothes at Christmas.
More Yule Lads There have been many more Yule Lads over the years, some of which have disappeared.