December is a good month to be a parent in Iceland. The reason: our Christmas traditions scare children into blind obedience. Whatever the little monsters do, you can always threaten that the Yule lads will bring them nothing but rotten potatoes if they don’t behave or that Grýla will boil them in her big pot and eat them.
You see, here in Iceland we have 13 santa clauses or yule lads as they are most often called in English. They are not your run of the mill jolly pink-cheeked Coca-Cola Santas but mischievous half human half trolls that traditionally left their cozy home in the mountains to cause havoc for us just humans. They have names like Door-Slammer, Pot-Licker and Candle-Moocher but their names usually respond to their preferred method of havoc causing.
Over the years though, the yule lads have lost their edge a little bit though and they are slowly morphing into santas in the more traditional sense. Instead of their once wicked ways they now come down from the mountains one by one to put treats into the shoes in the windows of Icelandic children that go to bed extra early in the hope that it will save them from the awful fate of the rotten potato. Kids are also getting smarter and now usually put a bigger shoe or a boot in the window to accommodate a bigger treat.
The yule lads have a mother called Grýla and a father called Leppalúði. As if they aren’t bad enough the children of Iceland also have to deal with the Christmas cat but more on that later.
Over the next few days I’m going to tell you more about this peculiar creatures so stay tuned for that.