It”s rare that you have to explain the concept of Santa Claus to someone. If you”ve ever done so, you soon realize what a bizarre custom it is. A strange man in red sneaks into your home through the place where smoke escapes. Instead of robbing you, he leaves toys for your children underneath a tree that you brought into your home for some reason. Pretty weird, right?
Then there”s Icelandic Christmas. This odd blend of traditional Christmas and Icelandic folklore is something quite different. Instead of Santa Claus, it features 14 trolls who sneak into homes on Christmas night and cause a little mischief. Like Santa, they too have a list, but if they find you naughty, you don”t just get a lump of coal in your stocking. No, Gryla and her troll sons will kidnap the misbehaving children and boil them for dinner. Meet the “Yule Lads.”
Mother of the 13 Yule Lads. This part troll, part animal lives in the mountains with her sons. Every Christmas the family comes down to the villages and cities to collect all the naughty children and throw them into a cauldron to be boiled and eaten. While she cooks, the Yule Lads make a mess of the house. One Yule Lad visits per night all the way up to Christmas.
Each Yule Lad has a different specialty in mischief. Stekkjastaur likes to bother the sheep, drink their milk, and ride them with his two peg legs swinging off to the side.
Giljagaur likes to sneak around and steal cow”s milk.
Stubby likes to eat any leftover crust off of pans.
The most sinister troll of them all. He licks spoons. He has Gene Simmons”s tongue. It”s weird.
Similar to spoon guy, this guy specializes in licking pots.
This guy licks bowls.
This dude slams doors and is presumably often foiled by revolving and sliding doors.
Skyr is a kind of like an Icelandic yogurt, which this guy has an affinity for.
He steals whole ropes of sausages. You know, Christmas sausages.
Legends say this troll is looking through your windows for steel, but more than likely he”s just looking at you naked.
He uses his huge nose to sniff out the Icelandic Christmas bread Laufabrau and steal if for himself and his brothers.
Ketkrokur uses a hook to steal your meat, which is the only way to steal meat in my opinion.
And finally comes Kertasnikir, who steals candles, which is actually kind of convenient considering you”re going to have to take down your decorations soon anyway.
As a kid, the threat of Santa bringing me a stocking of coal was terrifying enough to keep me from roughhousing and lying. I can”t even imagine how well behaved the children of Iceland must be.
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