In many countries, we know the famous Santa Claus, bringing gifts to the well-behaved children, passing by the chimney and traveling with his sleigh and reindeers. Well, in Iceland the Santa Claus you might picture in your mind is rather different. Here, there is not one Santa Claus but 13 Yule Lads. You would tell me, what are those? Let me explain!
In many countries you have the tradition of the advent calendar with chocolates to open every day from the 1rst of December until the 24th. In Iceland, there is something more, the Yule Lads, from the 12th of December until the 24th of December. The Yule Lads come from the Icelandic Folklore such as Elves, Fairies and Trolls. There are 13 in total, each one of them having his own designated day.
In Iceland, one of the most famous Trolls is their mother, the giantess named Grýla. She used to eat naughty children while her husband, Leppalúði, is considered as being pretty useless. With their 13 sons, the well known Yule Lads, usually spend the majority of the year hidden in their cave and go out of it during the 13 days before Christmas.
It is important to note that originally, those creatures are not the most friendly you will ever happen to cross paths with. In the Icelandic folklore, they are known as being mischievous and robbers, they like to harass people. Nowadays, they have a way better image, bringing gifts to the kind kids as Santa Claus and raw potatoes to the unkind ones. Icelandic kids would leave a shoe under their windows during those 13 nights and each Yule Lads would visit them every night leaving a small gift or candies or a rotten potato according to the behavior of the kid during the day.
One last character of the season is the Christmas Cat. It is a rule in the old Icelandic folklore that Icelanders should receive a new piece of clothing for Christmas or a giant black cat would eat them on Christmas Eve. You can find a huge sculpture of the unfamous cat near the city center if you are curious to take a picture with it!