December 10

The Icelandic Yule Lads

Christmas is just around the corner. In Iceland, that means a lot of things. It means eating a lot, of course, and exchanging presents. Trees and lights, of course. Like in the other nordic countries, our main celebration takes place on December 24, not the 25 like in most places.

But the thing that sets us apart the most, I would say, are our lovely Yule lads. These are our equivalent of Santa Claus, but oh, they are quite different.

First of all, there’s a lot of them. Thirteen, in fact. And they basically break into your house, steal food and other items, cause a bit of mayhem and leave small presents in children’s shoes. This happens every night for thirteen nights leading up to Christmas.

Oh, and did I mention that they’re trolls? Well, they are.

Their names are all connected to their peculiar characteristics. One of them licks spoons, so his name is Spoon-licker. Another swipes sausages, and so his name is Sausage-swiper. You get the picture.

But that’s not all. The Yule Lads’ parents are much nastier trolls than they are. And they eat naughty children. The Yule Lads’ mother, Grýla, goes around looking for naughty children. She puts them in her sack and takes them home to her cave, where she cooks them and they are eaten. Yeah, I know. Our holiday traditions are quite terrifying.

But there’s more!

This horrifying family of trolls also has a cat. The Yule Cat! They put up a sculpture of it every year in Downtown Reykjavik, and it’s a sight to behold. Quite the scary cat. The Yule Cat is a massive cat that eats…

Wait for it…


That’s right. The Yule Cat goes around and devours children who don’t get new clothing for Christmas. Which is classist and horrible, if you ask me. So it’s very important to give clothes at Christmas. Otherwise, the cat will get you.

So as you can tell, our holidays are not only presents and Christmas lights – it’s also a time for absolutely horrendous stories about trolls and monsters. And yes, we do tell these stories to our children from an early age. It’s no wonder we’re a peculiar nation.

Now, if you want to hear more about the Yule Lads, the Follow Me Podcast has a series of episodes coming up every day until Christmas, where we’ll tell you about each Yule Lad on the day before they arrive. Here’s a list of all of them, and as we post each episode I’ll add links to this list so you can follow along. And of course, if you haven’t already, I hope you’ll subscribe to our podcast. We have a lot of fun on there, telling Icelandic stories and joking around. And of course, if you like what we’re doing here, sharing the blog and the podcast with your friends would really help us out. 😀

We start with a warm up, where we talk about the Yule Lads in general, and their family. Click here to listen to that.

So, here are the Yule Lads:

  • Sheep Cote-Clod
  • Gully Gawk
  • Stubby
  • Spoon-Licker
  • Pot-Scraper
  • Bowl-Licker
  • Door-Slammer
  • Skyr-Gobbler
  • Sausage-Swiper
  • Window-Peeper
  • Doorway-Sniffer
  • Meat-Hook
  • Candle-Stealer

Tune in to the Follow Me Podcast over the next 13 days to learn all about these weird troll lads.


You may also like

Episode 26 – Iðunn and the apples of youth

Episode 25 – A father of 18 from the world of elves

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