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Yuletide Lads

Gryla in Icelendic Wonders Museum

The 13 Icelandic Jólasveinar

The 13 Icelandic Christmas Lads or Jólasveinar will join their mother in her cave one by one. The first one, Stekkjastaur, will arrive naughty as ever on 12. December and the last one will leave the cave on the 13th day of Christmas.      

The Icelandic Yuletide Lads          

The Icelandic Yuletide Lads are descended from trolls, and were originally bogeymen who were used to scare children.

Grýla and Leppalúđi are the parents of the Yuletide Lads, and their pet is the Christmas Cat.

Children feared all these characters in times past.

The Christmas cat was used to bogey naughty children and if the children didn't get some new clothes for Christmas.

The Yuletide Lads started to change in the twentieth century. They started to wear red clothes and give children presents in shoes which they had put in their windows, which they had never done before.

The Yuletide Lads have mellowed but still tend to pilfer and play tricks.

The number of Yuletide Lads varied in olden times from one region of Iceland to another. Today they are assumed to be thirteen and come to town one by one.


  • Stekkjastaur (Sheepfold Stick) comes December 12. He would try to drink milk from the farmers' ewes.


  • Giljagaur (Gully Oaf) comes December 13. Before the days of milking machines, he would sneak into the cowshed and skim the froth off the pails of milk.


  • Stúfur (Shorty) comes December 14. He, as his name implies, is on the small side. He was also known as Pönnuskefill (pan-scraper), as he scraped scraps of food off the pans.


  • Ţvörusleikir (Spoon-licker) comes December 15. He would steal the wooden spoon that had been used for stirring food. When he visits the National Museum, he goes looking for wooden spoons.


  • Pottasleikir (Pot-licker) comes December 16. He tries to snatch pots that have not been washed, and licks the scraps from them.


  • Askasleikir (Bowl-licker) comes December 17. He hides under beds, and if someone puts a wooden food bowl on the floor, he grabs it and licks it clean.


  • Hurđaskellir (Door-slammer) comes December 18. He is an awfully noisy fellow, who is always slamming doors and keeping people awake.


  • Skyrgámur (Curd Glutton) comes December 19. He loves skyr (milk curd) so much that he sneaks into the pantry and gobbles up all the skyr from the tub there.


  • Bjúgnakrćkir (Sausage Pilferer) comes December 20. He loves sausages of all kinds, and steals them whenever he can.


  • Gluggagćgir (Peeper) comes December 21. He is not as greedy as some of his brothers, but is awfully nosy as he peeps through windows and even steals toys he likes the look of.


  • Gáttaţefur (Sniffer) comes December 22. He has a big nose, and loves the smell of biscuits being baked for Christmas. He often tries to snatch a biscuit or two for himself. December 22 was sometimes called “hlakkandi” (looking forward), because the children had started to look forward to Christmas.


  • Ketkrókur (Meat Hook) comes on Ţorláksmessa (St. Ţorlákur's Day), December 23. He adores all meat. In the olden days he would lower a hook down the kitchen chimney and pull up a leg of lamb hanging from a rafter, or a bit of smoked lamb from a pot, as smoked lamb was traditionally cooked on St. Ţorlákur's Day.


  • Kertasníkir (Candle Beggar) comes on Christmas Eve, December 24. In olden times, candlelight was the brightest light available. Candles were so rare and precious that it was a treat for children to be given a candle at Christmas. And poor Candle Beggar wanted one too.                  Reference: The National Museum 

More information About the Icelandic “jólasveinar”

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