Saturday, December 17, Dr. Terry Gunnell, head of folkloristics at the University of Iceland, will give an illustrated presentation in English on the beliefs and traditions of Icelandic Christmas, past and present, according to a press release. The presentation starts at noon at the National Museum of Iceland. Admission is free of charge.
The Icelandic Yule Lads have little in common with the international Santa Claus. They are the descendants of trolls, originally used to scare children. During this century, they have mellowed, and sometimes wear their best, red, suits. But they still tend to pilfer and play tricks.
Their number varied in olden times from one region of Iceland to another. An 18th century poem on Grýla, their mother, was the first to claim they were 13, and their names were published by Jón Árnason in his folklore collection in 1862. About 60 different Yule Lad names are known.
The brothers visit the National Museum on each of the 13 days before Christmas. They usually wear their old Icelandic costumes and try to pilfer the goodies each likes best.