This month our subject is Christmastime. What better time to talk about the holidays then in December? The biggest holiday month of the year. If you find yourself traveling to Iceland this time of year, this blog post is perfect for you. Icelanders celebrate Christmas in a very big and magical way. In fact Icelanders celebrate Christmas for a whole 13 days. Starting from December 23rd and ends January 6th.
Have you heard of Iceland’s 13 Yule Lads? They are the sons of Leppalúði and Grýla who are evil trolls. So evil in fact that they eat bad children in their stew. It is said that Grýla and Leppalúði collect the bad children in a sack and carry them back to the mountains to cook them. Every year, 13 days before Christmas the Yule Lads come out from mountains one by one to visit the children of Iceland. The 13 Icelandic yule lads are a bit different from their parents, but are a tad bit sneaky and like to play tricks on people. The 13 Yule Lads are the following:
Stekkjastaur (Sheep-Cote Clod) is the 1st Yule Lad to arrive from the mountains. In the olden times he used to rial up the sheeps and drive all of the farmers crazy. He gets his name from his peg legs.
Giljagaur (Gully Gawk) is the 2nd to arrive. He used to sneak into the cow sheds to steal the milk.
Stúfur (Stubby) is the 3rd to arrive. He used to steal pans and eat the left over crusts left in them
Þvörusleikir (Spoon-Licker) is the 4th to arrive. He is the skinniest Yule Lad. He steals wooden spoons to lick them.
Pottaskefill (Pot-Scraper) is the 5th to arrive. He steals leftovers from pots.
Askasleikir (Bowl-Licker) is the 6th to arrive. He is know for stealing the askur. In the olden times people used to use jars called askur in stead of plates.
Hurðaskellir (Door Slammer) is the 7th to arrive. He is known for slamming every door in the house making sure to wake every one up in the middle of the night.
Skyrgámur (Skyr-Gobbler) is the 8th to arrive. He will finish every single skyr he will find.
Bjúgnakrækir (Sausage-Swiper) is the 9th to arrive. He is known for stealing the sausages that are being smoked.
Gluggagægir (Window-Peeper) is the 10th to arrive. Likes to spy through windows looking for things to steal.
Gáttaþefur (Doorway-Sniffer) is the 11th to arrive. Uses his big nose to sniff peoples doorways for food.
Ketkrókur (Meat-Hook) is the 12th to arrive. Known for his hook he used to steal meat.
Kertasníkir (Candle-Sneaker) is the 13th and last Yule Lad to arrive. He is known to steal and eat candles. In the oldern times they were made from animal fat which made them edible. Kertasnírkir is often known as the Yule Lad to leave the best gift.
Seeing as a lot has changed since back in the day the Yule Lads have mostly stopped playing tricks on people and instead like to reward Icelandic children with gifts if they have been well behaved. If the children have been good they will receive a small gift in their shoes. The misbehaved children receive a potato in their shoes.
This wouldn’t be a very good blog post if we left out Grýla, Leppalúði, and the 13 Yule Lad´s cat. The giant cat is said to check if every person received a new piece of clothing for Christmas. If someone has not received a new piece of clothing, the cat is said to eat that person.
Thorlacs Mass or Þorláksmessa is celebrated on the 23rd of December to honor St. Þorlákur Þórhallsson, bishop of Skálholt, who was canonized and recognized as the patron saint of Iceland in 1984. This night is known as the night before Christmas seeing as Icelanders open their gifts and spend time with their family on the 24th. On Þorláksmessa Icelanders will gather on Reykjavík’s main street Laugavegur to finish up their last minute shopping. The street is filled with holiday cheer and most shops are open til midnight. On the street you can find locals singing carols, while nearby almonds are being roasted. Some shops will even have live music. It is an experience every one should have. It is a truly magical night!
December 24th: Christmas starts at 6pm on the dot. While some Icelanders will attend Christmas Mass followed by a festive dinner, while others will gather together and eat at 6. After dinner and dessert Icelanders will then open up their gifts from one another one by one.
December 25th Christmas day is usually spent visiting extended family, or attending dinner parties with close friends.
December 26th is know as the 2nd of Christmas which is also a holiday and a day off. In the past years it has become popular to go to the movies as a family or stay home and play games all day.
New Years Eve is one of the most spectacular nights in Iceland. In Iceland it is legal to buy and light your own fireworks. Most towns have a bonfire and a firework show around 8 o´clock. On the strike of midnight most Icelanders will celebrate the new year with lighting their own fireworks.
January 6th is the last day of the Christmas season. A kind of fare-well to the holiday. Most Icelander will attend a bonfire and a firework show followed by going home and lighting up the rest of their own fireworks. After the 6th of January it becomes illegal again to shoot fire works until next December.
We hope this blog has been helpful for your coming trip, during the holidays in Iceland.
Irene & Team (Mama Planner)