Christmas in Iceland

The traditions and celebrations in Iceland.


Gryla and Leppalaudi parents of the Yule Lads.

by Rylee Dearborn, Reporter

In Iceland 12 days before Christmas, Children leave their shoes on the windowsill; If they were good they would get candy in their shoes. If they were not good that year, they would get rotten potatoes in their shoes.

In Iceland there are thirteen Father Christmases they are called The Yule Lads. They all have different names which indicate the mischievous activities they participate in.

The names of the Yule lads translated to English are:
-Sheep-Cote Clod, he is known for drinking the milk of the farmer’s sheep.
-Gully Gawk, he is known for stealing foam from buckets of cow milk.
-Stubby, as the name describes, is a short man who steals food from frying pans.
-Spoon licker, who licks spoons.
-Pot-licker, who licks unwashed pots clean.
-Bowl-licker, he licks the bowls that children would leave under the bed from midnight snacking.
-Door slammer, he keeps everyone awake at night from stomping around and slamming doors.
-Skyr Gobbler, known for gobbling up all of the Icelandic yogurt (Skyr).

Sausage Swiper loves to steal sausages.
Window Peeper is known for peeping through everyone’s windows and stealing the things that he likes.
Door Sniffer is known for sniffing around and taking all the baked goods he can find.
Meat Hook is known for stealing all the meat he can find.
Candle Beggar would steal candles which used to be considered a very valuable item in Iceland.

The Yule lads have evil parents named Grýla (the mother) and Leppalúði (the father). Grýla is a troll who has an appetite for the flesh of naughty children, she cooks these children in her giant pot. While Leppalúði, is very lazy and stays home in their cave. The family has a giant black cat that goes by the name of Jólakötturinnn that prowls after children.

“Icelanders also have, in total, 5 days of Christmas celebrations, starting with the 23rd day called ‘Thorlaks Messa’ celebrating Iceland’s patron saint, where everyone would cook Skata, fish that is aged until it really stinks like ammonia,” says Reykjavík, Iceland resident Baldur Tryggvason.

Decorations in Iceland are similar to decorations in America.

“We put up a Christmas tree with ornaments,” says resident American Marcus Brotsky. “We put up lights and a snowman on the front lawn.”

Unlike America, Icelanders do not have Christmas parties and such as most of the celebrations they hold are with family. Many of the activities done in America are not popular In Iceland.

“Making cookies is something that we do, as well as Elf on the Shelf,” Kiayana Fleischer, a resident in America, says.

Most of what Icelanders do together is activities such as getting a Christmas tree and reading.

“One would usually get several books since giving books is very popular and due to the often bad weather you would spend a lot of time reading all the new books you got,” Tryggvason says.

Christmas in Iceland is celebrated on December 25th. On the eve of Christmas; December 24th, feasts and celebrations would take place.

“On the 24th Advent day Christmas would start at 6pm with everyone dressed in their best and the family would sit down to a feast and fancy meal, and in our house the kids were responsible for cleaning up after the meal and doing all the dishes, et cetera, before we would gather in the living room and get to open our presents,” Tryggvason says.

“Christmas day, the 25th we and most families I knew would eat Hangi Kjot (hanging meat) which is a smoked leg of lamb and is called that since they would hang the meat in the rafters in the smoking shed,” says Tryggvason.

The festivities continue even after the 25th of December in Iceland.

“The second of Christmas and the third of Christmas the 26th & 27th would be less formal and one would often visit and dine with relatives,” Tryggvason says.

There are people who observe Christmas in a religious aspect, they celebrate to honor the birth of Jesus Christ, and there are people who do not celebrate Christmas religiously.

One thing that everyone around the world who celebrates Christmas has in common is they are there to celebrate family, love, peace, and life.