Iceland has many great Christmas traditions, but one of the most popular traditions involves the Yule Lads. They are the sons of Grýla and Leppalúði, trolls who live in the mountain with the Yule Cat. Leppalúði likes to stay at home, sometimes taking care of their many children and always making sure the pot is ready for Grýla to bring home human children to eat. While Leppalúði is fairly harmless in the mountains Grýla and the Yule Cat are downright dangerous.
The Yule Cat goes around at Christmas time to eat children who don‘t get a new piece of clothing for the holidays. It will look in the windows of houses to check, and if any unlucky child is without new clothing they will be snatched up and eaten. There is a beautiful Christmas statue of the Yule Cat in downtown Reykjavík.
Grýla is less picky – she will eat adults as well as children, but her specialty is going across the country to kidnap naughty or misbehaving children. She brings them back to her mountain cave in a large sack and cooks them in a big pot before eating them.
The 13 Yule Lads are mischievous but not nearly as evil as their parents. They come into town one by one from December 12th – December 24th. Children leave a shoe on their windowsill for the Yule Lads to leave presents in. If you’ve been nice you get a small gift each evening but if you’ve been naughty you can expect a potato!
1. Stekkjarstaur (Sheep-Cote Clod) is the first Yule Lad to arrive. Stekkjarstaur is famous for harassing sheep, as he wants to drink milk directly from the ewes. He has difficulty doing this because his legs are as stiff as wood!
2. Giljagaur, (Gully Gawk) is the second Yule Lad to come into town. He gets his name from hiding in gullies, or valleys, and waits to sneak into barns to steal milk from cows.
3. Stúfur, (Stubby) is the third Yule Lad. He is known for being extremely short. He also enjoys stealing pans to eat the crusty leftovers out of them.
4. Þvörusleikir (Spoon Licker) is the fourth Yule Lad to join the celebrations in the city. He is tall, skinny, and loves to steal wooden spoons to lick extra food from them.
5. Pottaskefill (Pot-Scraper) is the fifth Yule Lad, known for sneaking around the kitchen and stealing leftovers from pots.
6. Askasleikir (Bowl Licker) is the sixth Yule Lad. He hides under people‘s beds, waiting for them to put down their bowls so he can steal them and finish their leftovers.
7. Hurðaskellir (Door-Slammer) is the seventh Yule Lad. He enjoys slamming doors to wake people up!
8. Skyrgámur (Skyr-Gobbler) is the eighth Yule Lad to come from the mountains. Like his name suggests, he greatly enjoys eating lots of skyr (a traditional Icelandic yogurt).
9. Bjúgnakrækir (Sausage Swiper) is the ninth Yule Lad. He particularly enjoys hiding in the ceiling rafters to steal sausages and other tasty snacks.
10. Gluggagægir (Window Peeper) is the tenth Yule Lad. He peeks through windows to see what nice things are inside so he can come and steal them later.
11. Gáttaþefur (Doorway-Sniffer) is the eleventh Yule Lad. He has a big nose and an excellent sense of smell. He uses this to find laufabrauð, a traditional Icelandic Christmas bread.
12. Ketkrókur (Meat-Hook) is the twelfth Yule Lad. He‘s a sneaky one, using a hook to snag meat from unsuspecting people. He is quite good at it, even though his hook is not very large!
13. The last 13th and final Yule Lad is Kertasníkur (Candle-Stealer). He will come from the mountains tonight, marking the beginning of Christmas. He follows children around and tries to steal their candles. Your candles should be safe since they are no longer made out of animal fat and will be inedible to him.
This year our Whale Lads are helping our friends at Whales of Iceland hide the presents for their Christmas scavenger hunt – you can read more about that here.