In terms of Icelandic Folklore, The concept of Santa Claus in Iceland is very different to the one that is known in most western cultures. Iceland has thirteen filthy trolls that are called the Icelandic Yule Lads and they look nothing like the jolly bearded man in red and white …
From the 11th of December to the 24th, however, the Icelandic Yule Lads depart one by one, their home unknown but somewhere in the wilderness, to engage in thirteen days of mischief. Each has different antics, ranging from mischievous to horrifying and they are a big part of the country’s festive tradition.
Their image has been largely sanitized over the years and now, rather than being depicted as trolls defined by extreme deformities, they often wear the traditional red and white clothes, fluffy beards and wide smiles. They leave presents in the shoe that children place on their windowsills every evening, but naughty children will simply get a potato.
The first of the Yule Lads to leave the mountains to stir up trouble across Iceland was Stekkjastaur, or Sheep-Cote Clod. His modus operandi was to harass the sheep of any household he came across.
Giljagaur, or Gully Gawk, was the second Icelandic Yule Lad to arrive in human settlements. He hid in the gullies around a house, waiting until its residents have fallen asleep, his method of troublemaking was to break into the cowshed to steal any milk available.
The third Yule Lad, Stufur, or Stubby, became a nuisance throughout Iceland at Christmas by stealing the household pans for the delicious crust that remained on them.
The fourth Yule Lad, Thvorusleikir, is known in English as Spoon-Licker. He set out on his nationwide tour of mischief on the fifteenth of December each year, to break into the homes of Icelanders and lick the spoons of households in the hope of a morsel to eat.
Pottaskefill, or Pot-Scraper, broke into one home after another, he saught out pots of sauce, chunks of roast meat left on the tray, saucepans of seasonal vegetables, and scoured off anything leftover to eat.
Askasleikir, Bowl-Licker, had a reputation for slurping the remains of whatever was left in bowls, which were called “askur”, a traditional wooden food bowl.
Hurdaskellir, Door-Slammer, would sneak from home to home, to slam as many doors as he could in order to wake those sleeping inside.
Skyrgamur, or Skyr-Gobbler, craved the Icelandic Skyr and would try to get as much of it as he could.
Bjugnakraekir, or ‘Sausage-Snatcher,’ wanted to get his grubby hands on smoked sausages. He would break into homes and hide in the rafters, waiting for dinner to be cooked before swooping from above to snatch them.
The tenth Yule Lad, Gluggagaegir, or Window-Peeper, was perhaps the creepiest of all, hence the name.
Gattathefur, Doorway-Sniffer, was renowned for his enormous nose, and the reason for his sniffing was that he was forever seeking out his favorite meal, the Icelandic delicacy of laufabraud, leaf-bread.
Ketkrókur, or Meat-Hook, would lurk wherever he had access to a kitchen, under tables, behind doors, in cupboards …. He would wait for a dish of meat to be put on he counter and as soon he could he would pull out his long hook and snag himself whatever meat there was.
The thirteenth, and last Yule Lad to arrive in town was Kertasnikir, Candle-Stealer. Candles were incredibly valuable in Iceland In the past, providing light throughout the endless darkness in winter. They were also the only available tool for Icelanders to enjoy their historically favorite time of reading. Kertasnikir ought only to munch on the tallow that the candles were made from.
Nowadays, the Yule Lads are more family-friendly and tend to give more than they steal.