Grýla and Leppalúði have (at least) 13 children, all boys, bearing names relating to their behaviour. To mention a few there are Stubby, Sausage stealer, Candle beggar, Sky gobbler, Door slammer, Spoon licker, Window peeper (def. not popular #metoo) and Doorway sniffer.
13 days before Christmas (after midnight on 12. December) the first one arrives from the mountains. Children put their shoes in the windowsill and if they have been nice the whole day the Yule Lads will bring them a little gift (like clementine) in their shoes. If they have been bad they get a potato! So in a way this is the best time for the parents as no one wants to get a potato but the problem is that children wake up way too early to check on what the Yule Lads have brought them. Sometimes children write a letter to the Yule lad and it is popular to leave Skyr for Skyr gobbler and a candle for the Candle beggar hoping they might get a nicer gift.
My favourite was the Candle beggar as he was the nicest with in my imagnination with a puppy eyes begging for a new candle. Much nicer than for example Door slammer who slammed the doors and woke everyone up or Window-Peeper, who is known to look into windows in search of things to steal.
Their Christmas Cat
This scary family keep a huge black cat. The Yule Cat is known as an enormous, monstrous feline that eats any poor soul that doesn’t receive new clothes before Christmas Eve. The poor Icelandic people worked day and night before Christmas knitting or sowing new clothes for their family members to avoid getting eaten by the cat!
What a lovely Christmas story from Iceland (not) – however very typical. Maybe they were so harsh because Iceland was such a harsh place throughout the centuries? Things are every different today, but the traditions remain. But I sincerely hope the Yule lads will live on for a long time!
Today you can visit the Yule Lads cave in Dimmuborgir by Lake Mývatn all year around and even the Yule Lads themselves in December! You can find the huge Christmas Cat in downtown Reykjavik.
Text: Steinunn Guðbjörnsdóttir
Photos: www.arnastofnun.is www.iceland.is and more
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