The Icelandic Yule-lads

The Icelandic Yule-lads

Picture from Iceland Magazine

The Icelandic Santa clauses are 13 in total. They are figures from Icelandic folklore which later on became the Icelandic version of Santa Claus. They put rewards or punishments into shoes places by children on window sills during the last 13 nights before Christmas Eve. Every night, one Santa Claus visits each child, leaving gifts or potatoes in their shoe, depending on the child's behaviour through out the year.

The Icelandic Santa Clauses have parents, which are trolls. They are called Grýla and Leppalúði, and live in the mountains. Grýla is big and scary, with an appetite for the flesh of badly behaved children, which she sometimes collects and puts in a large pot and makes a stew out of. Leppalúði is smaller and weaker, and mostly stays at home in his cave being lazy. They together have a cat, a beast that eats children who do not receive new clothes for Christmas.

As mentioned, the Icelandic Santa Clauses are 13, they live in the mountains and come to town, one by one during the last 13 nights before Christmas. After Christmas Eve they then go back to the mountains, one by one. The first one leaving on the 25th of December and the last one the 6th of January.

In Iceland the 6th of January is called the "thirteenth" and is celebrated as the end of Christmas. It is celebrated with bonfires and fireworks. It is one of the most heathen of the holidays celebrated in Iceland. According to myth, it is one of the days when the hidden people and elves make themselves visible to humans. The elf king and queen visit the bonfires and people sing songs about them and dance elf dances. The "thirteenth" is also the day when Icelanders take down their Christmas decorations and throw out the Christmas tree.

The Icelandic Santa Clauses are said to be pranksters who steal from people or harass them. They are said to dress in late medieval style Icelandic clothing, but nowadays they are usually shown in the traditional Santa Claus costume.

Here are their names and their description:

  • Stekkjarstaur (Sheep-Cote Clod): Harasses sheep, but is impaired by his stiff peg-legs.
  • Giljagaur (Gully Gawk): Hides in gullies, waiting for an opportunity to sneak into the cowshed and steal milk.
  • Stúfur (Stubby): Abnormally short. Steals pans to eat the crust left on them.
  • Þvörusleikir (Spoon-licker): Steals wooden spoons to lick. Is extremely thin due to manutrition.
  • Pottaskefill (Pot-Scraper): Steals leftovers from pots.
  • Askasleikir (Bowl-Licker): Hides under beds waiting for someone to put down their "bowl" (dish with a lid) which then he steals.
  • Hurðaskellir (Door-Slammer): Likes to slam doors, especially during the night.
  • Skyrgámur (Skyr-Gobbler): He has an affinity for skyr (Icelandic cultured dairy product).
  • Bjúgnakrækir (Sausage-Swiper): Would hide in the rafters and snatch sausages that were being smoked.
  • Gluggagægir (Window-Peeper): A snoop who would look through windows in search of things to steal.
  • Gáttaþefur (Doorway-Sniffer): Has abnormally large nose and an acute sense of smell which he uses to locate laufabrauð (Icelandic traditional bread)
  • Ketkrókur (Meat-Hook): Uses a hook to steal meat.
  • Kertasníkir (Candle-Stealer): Follows children in order to steal their candles.

Picture from

Resources: Wikipedia & Iceland Magazine

Best regards, Johanna G