The Icelandic Yule Lads and their family

On the night of 12th of December, the first of 13 Yule Lads comes to town. Yes, you read that right. Instead of the single Santa Claus or Father Christmas, Icelanders have 13 Yule Lads.

Icelandic yule lads

Troll Santa’s

These ancient mischevious troll-like creatures, start coming to town from the mountains one by one the night of the 12th of December until the 24th and put a small gift in children‘s shoes (or a potato if they have been having badly). Then on the 25th, they start going back to the mountains one by one, with the last going on the 6th of January, which marks the end of Christmas or the Yule Tide in Iceland.

Trickster yule lads

Until a few decades ago, the Yule Lads were quite the tricksters and used to terrorize grown-ups, children, and animals. Their names described their specialty, the first one, for example, Sheep-Cote Clod or Stekkjastaur, used to harass sheep but was impaired by his stiff legs. The second one, Gully Gawk or Giljagaur hides in the gullies, waiting for an opportunity to come down and steal milk.

The other yule lads  are:

Stúfur – Stubby

Þvörusleikir – Spoon-Licker

Pottaskefill – Pot-Scaper

Askasleikir – Bowl-Licker

Hurðaskellir – Door-Slammer

Skyrgámur – Skyr-Gobbler

Bjúgnakrækir – Sausage-Swiper

Gluggagægir – Window-Peeper

Gáttaþefur – Doorway-Sniffer

Ketkrókur – Meat-Hook

Kertasníkir – Candle-Stealer

It is likely the change in their behavior happened when many Icelanders moved to the capital area and other towns, and they had to adapt. There used to be many more Yule Lads and Ladies, but most have retired.

Icelandic yule lads

Grýla and Leppalúði, the Yule Lads’ parents are still about, but the formidable Grýla has not eaten children in ages. The Yule Cat is always to be feared though, and if you do not get a new item of clothing before Christmas, it will come and eat you.

We love the history of the Icelandic Yule Lads; we hope you do too!

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