Christmas: Icelandic Yule Lads


Yule Lads, (jólasveinarnir/ jólasveinar) are characters from Icelandic folklore who in modern times have become the Icelandic version of Santa Claus.   Originally depicted as being mischievous, criminal, or pranksters, and are said to be the sons of the mountain trolls Grýla and Leppalúði. They are frequently depicted with the Yuletide Cat, a beast that eats children that don’t receive new clothes in time for Christmas.

In modern times the Yule Lads have taken on a role comparable to Santa Claus, putting small gifts (or potatoes if the child has misbehaved) into shoes placed by children into their windows the last thirteen nights before Christmas Eve. The official 13 Yule Lads are as follows: (in order of appearance)

1. Stekkjastaur (Sheep-Cote Clod) – Harasses sheep, but is impaired by his stiff peg-legs.
2. Giljagaur (Gully Gawk) – Hides in gullies, then sneaks into the cowshed and steal milk.

3. Stúfur (Stubby) – Abnormally short. Steals pans to eat the crust left on them.
4. Þvörusleikir (Spoon-Licker) – Steals Þvörur (wooden spoons) to lick. Is extremely thin due to malnutrition.
5. Pottaskefill (Pot-Licker) – Steals leftovers from pots.
6. Askasleikir (Bowl-Licker) – Hides under beds waiting  to steal ‘askur’ (bowls)
7. Hurðaskellir (Door-Slammer) – Likes to slam doors, especially during the night.
8. Skyrgámur (Skyr-Gobbler) – A Yule Lad with an affinity for skyr. (yoghurt)
 Bjúgnakrækir (Sausage-Swiper) -Would hide in the rafters and snatch sausages.
10. Gluggagægir (Window-Peeper) – A voyeur who looks through windows in search of things to steal.
11. Gáttaþefur (Doorway-Sniffer) – Has a large nose and an acute sense of smell which he uses to find laufabrauð.(bread)
12. Ketkrókur (Meat-Hook) – Uses a hook to steal meat.
13. Kertasníkir (Candle-Stealer) – Follows children in order to steal their candles.