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Santa Claus Is Coming to Town

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Santa Claus Is Coming to Town

Or to be exact: the Santas are coming to town. Iceland’s 13 scary Santas, known as the Yule Lads, will come down from the mountains one by one in the following weeks to treat well-behaved children to presents. The first lad arrives next Tuesday night.

The Yule Lad brothers, offspring of the trolls Grýla and Leppalúdi, are called Stiff-Legs, Gully Gawk, Shorty, Ladle Licker, Pot Scraper, Bowl Licker, Door Slammer, Skyr Gobbler, Sausage Snatcher, Window Peeper, Door Sniffer, Meat Hook and Candle Beggar. The last comes to town the night before Christmas Eve.

Nowadays the Yule Lads carry a bag full of little presents with them to leave behind in children’s shoes, which every child in Iceland has excitedly placed his or her windowsill. But if the young ones have misbehaved they only get an old potato in their shoe.

In the olden days, however, the Yule Lads only came down from the mountains to steal food and scare people out of their wits. Their appearance and behavior has improved a lot since then, but they still have a taste for traditional Icelandic food, like skyr (a yogurt-like dairy product) and hangikjöt (smoked lamb) and can’t help but tease humans now and then.

As of tomorrow, and up until Christmas, Iceland Review Online will publish an English translation by Hallberg Hallmundsson of the original Yule Lads Ballad Jólasveinarnir by Jóhannes úr Kötlum (1899-1972), courtesy of Álfasaga ehf.

Click here to read a Daily Life column about the “Scary Santas” and here to read about their annual dip into the Mývatn Nature Baths.

If you click on the Yule Lads’ names below, you can read about their adventures at this time last year.

1. Stiff Legs (a.k.a. Sheep-Cote Clod), 2. Gully Gawk, 3. Shorty (a.k.a. Stubby), 4. Ladle Licker (a.k.a. Spoon Licker), 5. Pot Scraper, 6. Bowl Licker, 7. Door Slammer, 8. Skyr Gobbler, 9. Sausage Snatcher (a.k.a. Sausage Swiper), 10. Window Peeper, 11. Door Sniffer, 12. Meat Hook, 13. Candle Beggar.

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