Yuletide Lads

Yuletide Lads

Yuletide Lads.

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.

Gryla and Leppaludi

Grýla and Leppalúði are the parents of the Yuletide Lads, and their pet is the Christmas Cat; children feared all these characters in times past.

 Stekkjastaur (Sheepfold Stick)  

On December 12 the Yuletide Lads begin to come to town. The first is Stekkjarstaur (Sheepfold Stick), who would try to drink the milk from the farmers' ewes.

Visit Stekkjarstaur's Page

 Giljagaur (Gully Oaf)  

On December 13 Giljagaur (Gully Oaf) arrives. Before the days of milking machines, he would sneak into the cowshed and skim the froth off the pails of milk.

Visit Giljagaur's Page

 Stufur (Shorty)  

The Lad who arrives on December 14 is Stúfur (Shorty), who, as his name implies, is on the small side. He was also known as Pönnuskefill (pan-scraper), as he scraped scraps of food of the pans.

Visit Stúfur's Page

 Thvorusleikir (Spoon-licker)

 On December 15, Þvörusleikir (Spoon-licker) comes down from the mountains. He would steal the wooden spoon that had been used for stirring. When he visits the city's and town's he goes looking for wooden spoons.

Visit Þvörusleikir's Page

 Pottasleikir (Pot-licker)

 On December 16, Pottasleikir (Pot-licker) comes visiting. He tried to snatch pots that had not been washed, and lick the scraps from them.

Visit Pottasleikir's Page

 Askasleikir (Bowl-licker)

 Askasleikir (Bowl-licker) arrives on December 17. He hid under beds, and if someone put his wooden food-bowl in the floor, he grabbed it and licked it clean.

Visit Askasleikir's Page

 Hurdaskellir (Door-slammer)

 Hurðaskellir (Door-slammer) comes on December 18. He is an awfully noisy fellow, who is always slamming doors and keeping people awake.
Door Slammer.

Visit Hurðaskellir's Page

 Skyrgamur (Curd Glutton)

 The Lad who is expected on December 19 is called Skyrgámur (Curd Glutton), because he loves skyr (milk curd) so much that he sneaks into the pantry and gobbles up all the skyr from the tub there.

Visit Skyrgámur's Page

 Bjugnakraekir (Sausage Pilferer)

 Bjúgnakrækir (Sausage Pilferer) comes on December 20. He loves sausages of all kinds, and steals them whenever he can.

Visit Bjúgnakrækir's Page

 Gluggagaegir (Peeper)

 On December 21, Gluggagægir (Peeper) arrives. He is not as greedy as some of his brothers, but awfully nosy, peeping through windows and even stealing toys he likes the look of.

Visit Gluggagægir's Page

 Gattathefur (Sniffer)

 On December 22 Gáttaþefur (Sniffer) comes calling. He has a big nose, and he loves the smell of cakes being baked for Christmas. He often tries to snatch a cake or two for himself. December 22 was sometimes called hlakkandi (looking forward), because the children had started looking forward to Christmas.

Visit Gáttaþefur's Page

 Ketkrokur (Meat hook)

 On 23 December, St. Þorlákur's Day, Ketkrókur (Meat Hook) arrives. He adores all meat. In olden days he would lower a hook down the kitchen chimney and pull up a leg of lamb hanging from a rafter, or a bit of smoked lamb from a pan, as smoked lamb was traditionally cooked on St. Þorlákur's Day.

Visit Ketkrókur's Page

 Kertasnikir (Candle Beggar)

 Kertasníkir (Candle Beggar) comes on Christmas Eve, December 24. In olden times, candle light was the brightest light available. Candles were so rare and precious that it was a treat for children to be given a candle at Christmas. And poor Candle Beggar wanted one too.

Visit Kertasníkir's Page