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Candle Beggar, Kertasnýkir.

by Petur Sigurdsson, Broker and Erna Sigurdsson, Real

Candle Beggar

Candle Beggar arrives on Christmas Eve Day, 24 December. In former times, candles were the brightest lights available to people. They were so rare and precious that all children longed to have their very own candle for Christmas. And poor Candle Beggar – well, he also longed for a candle. The National Museum is open between 11 and 12 on Christmas Eve Day, to welcome Candle Beggar.

The Kertasníkir, Candle Beggarthirteenth was Candle Beggar
- ‘twas cold, I believe,
if he was not the last
of the lot on Christmas Eve.

He trailed after the little ones
who, like happy sprites,
ran about the farm with
their fine tallow lights.

From the poem The Yuletide Lads by Jóhannes úr Kötlum.                                                                   

English translation by Hallberg Hallmundsson.

 

 

Door Sniffer, Gáttaþefur.

by Petur Sigurdsson, Broker and Erna Sigurdsson, Real

Door Sniffer

Door Sniffer comes to town on 22 December. He is easily recognised by his huge nose. He loved the smell of cakes and lace bread – sometimes called leaf bread – when they were being prepared for Christmas, and always tried to steal one or two.

Gáttaþefur, Door SnifferEleventh was Door Sniffer,
a doltish lad and gross.
He never got a cold, yet had
a huge, sensitive nose.

He caught the scent of lace bread
while leagues away still
and ran toward it weightless
as wind over dale and hill.

 

From the poem The Yuletide Lads by Jóhannes úr Kötlum.                             

English translation by Hallberg Hallmundsson.

 

Door Sniffer, Gáttaþefur.

Door Slammer, Hurðaskellir.

by Petur Sigurdsson, Broker and Erna Sigurdsson, Real

Door Slammer

Door Slammer comes to town on 18 December. He always made a lot of noise when he walked around, slamming doors and such, so people could hardly get any rest. He still has a habit of slamming doors and always does when he visits the National Museum.

Hurðaskellir, Door SlammerThe seventh was Door Slammer,
a sorry, vulgar chap:
When people in the twilight
would take a little nap,

he was happy as a lark
with the havoc he could wreak,
slamming doors and hearing
the hinges on them squeak.

 

From the poem The Yuletide Lads by Jóhannes úr Kötlum.                             

English translation by Hallberg Hallmundsson.

 

Pot Scraper, Pottasleikir.

by Petur Sigurdsson, Broker and Erna Sigurdsson, Real

Pot Scraper

Pot Scraper is expected on 16 December. He is also sometimes called Pot Licker since in the old days he waited to snatch away the pots that had not been washed and licked the food remains from the insides. 

Pottasleikir, Pot ScraperPot Scraper, the fifth one,
was a funny sort of chap.
When kids were given scrapings,
he'd come to the door and tap.

And they would rush to see
if there really was a guest.
Then he hurried to the pot
and had a scrapingfest.

 

From the poem The Yuletide Lads by Jóhannes úr Kötlum.                             

English translation by Hallberg Hallmundsson.

 

Spoon Licker, Þvörusleikir.

by Petur Sigurdsson, Broker and Erna Sigurdsson, Real

Spoon Licker

Spoon Licker comes down from the mountains on 15 December. In the past he would sneak into the houses and lick the wooden spoon used to scrape the pots. These days he looks for wooden spoons at the National Museum when he visits.

Þvörusleikir, Spoon LickerThe fourth was Spoon Licker;
like spindle he was thin.
He felt himself in clover
when the cook wasn't in.

Then stepping up, he grappled
the stirring spoon with glee,
holding it with both hands
for it was slippery.

 

From the poem The Yuletide Lads by Jóhannes úr Kötlum.                             

English translation by Hallberg Hallmundsson.

 

Stubby, Stufur

by Petur Sigurdsson, Broker and Erna Sigurdsson, Real

Stubby

The Yule Lad who arrives on 14 December is called Stubby. He is a little, shall we say, vertically challenged. He is also known as Pan Scraper because in the old days he used to try snatching bits of food from the frying pan.

Stúfur, StubbyStubby was the third called,
a stunted little man,
who watched for every chance
to whisk off a pan.

And scurrying away with it,
he scraped off the bits
that stuck to the bottom
and brims - his favorites.

 

From the poem The Yuletide Lads by Jóhannes úr Kötlum.                             

English translation by Hallberg Hallmundsson.

 

Stubby, Stufur

Gully Gawk,Giljagaur

by Petur Sigurdsson, Broker and Erna Sigurdsson, Real

Gully Gawk

On 13 December it is Gully Gawk's turn. Before milking machines were invented he had a habit of stealing into the cowshed and slurping the foam off the milk in the buckets.

Giljagaur, Gully GawkThe second was Gully Gawk,
gray his head and mien.
He snuck into the cow barn
from his craggy ravine.

Hiding in the stalls,
he would steal the milk, while
the milkmaid gave the cowherd
a meaningful smile.

 

From the poem The Yuletide Lads by Jóhannes úr Kötlum.                             

English translation by Hallberg Hallmundsson.

Gully Gawk, Giljagaur

Sheep-Cote Clod, Stekkjastaur

by Petur Sigurdsson, Broker and Erna Sigurdsson, Real

Sheep-Cote Clod

The first Yuletide Lad comes to town on 12 December. His name is Sheep-Cote Clod and he used to try to suckle the yews in the farmers' sheep sheds.

Stekkjarstaur, Sheep-Cote Clod

The first of them was Sheep-Cote Clod.
He came stiff as wood,
to prey upon the farmer's sheep
as far as he could.

He wished to suck the ewes,
but it was no accident
he couldn't; he had stiff knees
- not to convenient.

 

From the poem The Yuletide Lads by Jóhannes úr Kötlum.                              English translation by Hallberg Hallmundsson.

Sheep-Cote Clod, Stekkjastaur

Yuletide Lads, Gryla and Leppaludi.

by Petur Sigurdsson, Broker and Erna Sigurdsson, Real

Yuletide Lads, Gryla and Leppaludi

This is how the National Museum of Iceland's shows and explains the story of the 13 Yuletide Lads (Icelandic Santa Clauses) on their website.

The Icelandic jólasveinar (Yuletide Lads) have absolutely nothing to do with the international red-clothed Santa Claus, who is a version of St. Nicholas. The Yuletide Lads are descended from trolls, and orginally they were bogeymen who were used to scare children. During this century they have mellowed, and they sometimes wear their best, red, suits. But they still tend to pilfer and play tricks.

The number of Yuletide Lads varied in olden times from one region of Iceland to another. The number 13 is first seen in a poem on Grýla (the Lads' mother) in the 18th century, and their names were published by Jón Árnason in his folklore collection in 1862. About 60 different names of Yuletide Lads are known.


They visit the National Museum on each of the 13 days before Christmas. They usually wear their old Icelandic costumes, and try to pilfer the goodies each likes best.

 

 

Displaying blog entries 1-9 of 9