Christmas in Iceland - 13 Bad Santas?

There are a few odd traditions that can be found during the Holiday Season in Iceland.
December 3, 2019
Kári Gunnlaugsson

 Iceland has become an increasingly popular destination for a Christmas Vacation. All through December people enjoy the sometimes extravagant decorations and colourful lights which brighten up the long nights this time of year. The Icelanders have a strong tradition of trying to beat their neighbour at just about anything, including the amount of xmassy stuff to put up in and around the house. Iceland becomes a Winter Wonderland this time of year and outside the city little pools of light shine into the arctic darkness. Along with the good chances of seeing the Aurora Borealis, geothermal hot springs to bathe in and breathtaking waterfalls clad in ice sculptures, these make up for some very good reasons to visit this island in the North.


There are a few odd traditions that can be found during the Holiday Season in Iceland. The whole business of history, myth and religion that got mixed up in the creation of the troll Grýla, her good-for-nothing husband Leppalúði and their mischievous sons the 13 very badly behaved yulelads, not to mention her children-eating cat-monster.


Just to go over the Yule Lads a little bit, what they do andthe order in which they arrive into town from December 12th up until the 24th.


1. Stekkjastaur - walks on 2 wooden legs and sucks the milk directly from the udder of the sheep.

2. Giljagaur - hides in the barn and steels the cream from the dairy.

3. Stúfur - steals pots and pans and eats the leftovers.

4. Þvörusleikir - hides in the kitchen and licks the wooden spoons and spatulas used to stir stews and soups.

5. Pottasleikir - also hangs around the kitchen and licks the inside of pots and pans.

6. Askasleikir - hides underneath your bed and tries to steal your plate to lick it.

7. Hurðaskellir - startles people by slamming doors.

8. Skyrgámur - loves his skyr and steals it every chance he gets.

9. Bjúgnakrækir - loves his sausages and steals them at every opportunity. 

10. Gluggagægir - is a peeping tom - may also have kleptomania.

11. Gáttaþefur - Has a gigantic nose which he sticks into peoples houses.

12. Ketkrókur - steals any kind meat and meat based products.

13. Kertansníkir - loves candles, enjoys the flame and also eats them.


On the 25th they start leaving town again and the last one leaves on the 6th of January. 


They have in recent years mellowed out a little bit and are now mostly concerned with bringing gifts which they leave in shoes that kids put on their window shelves. Kids that have not been behaving well only get a potato of course. There are also rumours of the death of Grýla the terrible mother of the yule lads saying that her children-eating days days are over. Her cat however is said to be still alive and will eat children that receive no item of clothing during Christmas.


For those of you visiting Iceland around Christmas, hopefully it will be an unforgettable adventure in winter Wonderland and free of any half-troll troublemakers causing a nuisance. 


Or as the say in Iceland: “Gleðileg Jól!”

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