Here are 16 facts about the Icelandic Santa Claus.
Did you know that in Iceland we do not believe in the Santa Claus? That´s because we have our own Icelandic Santa Claus or even better we have 13 “Santa´s”!
We call the Icelandic Santa Claus the Yule Lads, and their tale is a very old folklore. They are 13 in total and they have trolls for parents: a wicked mother and a lazy father.
For a child in Iceland it´s a custom to place a shoe in the window sill of the bedroom window thirteen nights before Christmas Eve. The Yule Lads arrive in town one by one and reward good behavior with small gifts or punish bad behavior with a rotting potato. So in total kids can receive 13 small gifts before Christmas…. if they behave.
But the Yule Lads do not have the same image as the sugarcoated Santa Claus, they are the exact opposite.
The Yule Lads were originally portrayed as being mischievous, or even criminal, pranksters who would steal from and harass the population. They all had descriptive names that conveyed their behavior. Here is a list of the Yule Lads, names, short description and dates of arrival and departure.
|Icelandic Name||English translation||Description||Arrival||Departure|
|Stekkjarstaur||Sheep-Cote Clod||Harasses sheep, but is impaired by his stiff peg-legs.||December 12||December 25|
|Giljagaur||Gully Gawk||Hides in gullies waiting for an opportunity to sneak into the cowshed and steal milk.||December 13||December 26|
|Stúfur||Stubby||Abnormally short. Steals pans to eat the crust left on them.||December 14||December 27|
|Þvörusleikir||Spoon-Licker||Steals wooden spoons from the kitchen to lick. He is extremely thin due to malnutrition.||December 15||December 28|
|Pottaskefill||Pot-Scraper||Steals leftovers from pots.||December 16||December 29|
|Askasleikir||Bowl-Licker||Hides under beds waiting for someone to put down their ‘askur’ (a food bowl with a lid used instead of dishes), which he then steals.||December 17||December 30|
|Hurðaskellir||Door-Slammer||Likes to slam doors, especially during the night.||December 18||December 31|
|Skyrgámur||Skyr-Gobbler||A Yule Lad with an affinity for skyr. (milk product)||December 19||January 1|
|Bjúgnakrækir||Sausage-Swiper||Would hide in the rafters and snatch sausages that were being smoked.||December 20||January 2|
|Gluggagægir||Window-Peeper||A voyeur who would look through windows in search of things to steal.||December 21||January 3|
|Gáttaþefur||Doorway-Sniffer||Has an abnormally large nose and an acute sense of smell which he uses to locate food.||December 22||January 4|
|Ketkrókur||Meat-Hook||Uses a hook to steal meat.||December 23||January 5|
|Kertasníkir||Candle-Stealer||Follows children in order to steal their candles (which in early days were edible). Nowadays kids give him candles.||December 24||January 6|
The Yule Lads are the sons of Trolls who lives in a stinking cave up in the mountains.
Their mother is an ugly and wicked troll who travels the country during Christmas time with a big sack hunting for children who have been misbehaving year-round. Her name is Grýla and she brings the naughty children to her cave where she´ll cook them and eat them. Grýla´s husband is called Leppalúði, he is her third husband (and I believe she probably ate her first two husbands). Leppalúði is very lazy, ugly and filthy but that´s almost all we know about him. They have a big black mean cat called the Yule Cat (the Christmas Cat). Although the name sounds cuddly and sweet don´t think for a second that anything living with those two could be anything but evil. The Yule Cat is a monster who lurks around and eats people who don´t buy or get a new clothing for Christmas. YES it´s a fact if you don´t get a new piece of clothing to wear at Christmas (it can be anything even just a pair of socks) you´ll be eaten by the big black monster cat.
In modern times the Yule Lads are believed to be nice and similar to the Santa Claus (they have even started dressing up in a costume like Santa and therefor deserve to be called the 13 Icelandic Santa Claus) but they still have their funny names, their funny habits and fetishes, they are still scared of and hiding from their mean mother and her even meaner cat.
There you go 16 facts about the Icelandic Santa Claus 🙂 13 lads, their parents and the frightening cat.0