The Yule Lads – Artist Unknown

I quite like a little jaunt out.  Get a bit merry, maybe cause a little bit of frivolity now and then, but as I get older it gets a bit fewer and further between jaunts.  That is nothing compared to the Yule Lads as they are now confined to coming out for 13 nights a year over the Christmas period.

The Yule Lads will come down from the mountain one by one and visit children on the lead up to Christmas.  Like many Christmas traditions, these days the Yule Lads siphon good and bad children out.  Children leave shoes on the window sill and if they have been good, they will be left a small toy, if they have been bad they will be left a rotten potato.

These guys were not always so giving, legend waivers from homicidal maniacs, to pranksters, but they were not the friendly chaps that we see in today’s culture.  The image of these lads changed, when it was found that children were getting too scared to leave their house.

Numbers of the Yule  Lads have wavered over the years, but currently Iceland seem to have settled on the number 13, one for each of the 13 nights that lead up to Christmas, and they then stick around for 13 nights, so they get a bit of a jolly up.  Each lad has their own personality and these are comprised of the following:-

Icelandic name English translation Description Arrival Departure
Stekkjarstaur Sheep-Cote Clod Harasses sheep, but is impaired by his stiff peg-legs. 12 December 25 December
Giljagaur Gully Gawk Hides in gullies, waiting for an opportunity to sneak into the cowshed and steal milk. 13 December 26 December
Stúfur Stubby Abnormally short. Steals pans to eat the crust left on them. 14 December 27 December
Þvörusleikir Spoon-Licker Steals Þvörur (a type of a wooden spoon with a long handle – I. þvara) to lick. Is extremely thin due to malnutrition. 15 December 28 December
Pottaskefill Pot-Scraper Steals leftovers from pots. 16 December 29 December
Askasleikir Bowl-Licker Hides under beds waiting for someone to put down their “askur” (a type of bowl with a lid used instead of dishes), which he then steals. 17 December 30 December
Hurðaskellir Door-Slammer Likes to slam doors, especially during the night. 18 December 31 December
Skyrgámur Skyr-Gobbler A Yule Lad with an affinity for Skyr (Icelandic yogurt). 19 December 1 January
Bjúgnakrækir Sausage-Swiper Would hide in the rafters and snatch sausages that were being smoked. 20 December 2 January
Gluggagægir Window-Peeper A snoop who would look through windows in search of things to steal. 21 December 3 January
Gáttaþefur Doorway-Sniffer Has an abnormally large nose and an acute sense of smell which he uses to locate food. 22 December 4 January
Ketkrókur Meat-Hook Uses a hook to steal meat. 23 December 5 January
Kertasníkir Candle-Stealer Follows children in order to steal their candles. 24 December 6 January

I do appreciate that there are only 10 Yule Lads shown in the above picture, which is a traditional greeting card, and they don’t look so much like trolls, as the legend depicts, but a bit more like my Dad on a night out, but this image now leads men in Iceland to dress up as the Yule Lads and wander the streets delivering small toys and spread festive cheer.

Keep an eye out for tomorrow’s post on the story behind the Yule Lad’s mother.

Do you think I missed something?  Why not tell me in the comments?

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