Sunday, December 13, 2009

The Yule Lads

The Yule Lads
Icelanders have not one, but thirteen Santas, or Yule Lads. These lads are not related to Santa Claus in any way. They are descendants of trolls and were originally used to scare children. In the last century, however, they have become a lot friendlier.
The number of Yule Lads has varied throughout the centuries but now they are consistently thirteen. The number 13 was first seen in a poem in the 18th century and the names that they carry today was published in Jón Árnason’s folklore collection of 1862. Their current names are: Stekkjastaur (Sheepfold Stick), Giljagaur (Gilly Oaf), Stúfur (Shorty), Þvörusleikir (Spoon-licker), Pottasleikir (Pot-licker), Askasleikir (Bowl-licker), Hurðaskellir (Door-slammer), Skyrgámur (Skyr-glutton), Bjúgnakrækir (Sausage-pilfer), Gluggagægir (Peeper), Gáttaþefur (Sniffer), Ketkrókur (Meat-hook) and Kertasníkir (Candle-begger). As you can tell from these names, the lads are very mischievous and they have retained their unique characteristics to this day. They live in the mountains with their parents, Grýla and Leppalúði. They come to town, one by one, in the days before Christmas. The first one arrives on December 12th and the last one on December 23rd. Formerly, they tried to pilfer their favorite things or play tricks on people (hence their names), but now their main role is to give children small gifts. Every child in Iceland puts their best shoe on their bedroom window sill on December 12th (some try to put their boot, in the hope that they may get more, but so far the Yule Lads haven’t been fooled) and they get a small gift from each lad when he arrives in town. But beware not to be naughty or the lad might just leave a rotten potatoe in your shoe!
Their original clothing are rags that are similar to farmer’s clothes in the 18th century. and they are often seen carrying their favorite food. Nowadays, however, they are usually seen in familiar red clothing with white beards and black boots.
They often make appearances at Christmas dances, which are very popular among Icelandic children. Children (adults are of course welcome to join them) dance around a Christmas tree and sing carols. The highlight of the dance is when one of the Yule Lads joins the celebration and dances and sings with the kids and usually gives them a goody bag before he leaves.
The day after Christmas the first lad returns to the mountains. Then they leave, one by one, until the last one leaves on January 6th, which is the last day of the Christmas season.

No comments: