The Enchanting World of Icelandic Yule Lads

In the magical realm of Icelandic folklore, the festive season isn’t just about festive lights and jolly carols; it’s about the mischievous Yule Lads (or Jólasveinar in Icelandic) who descend from the mountains to add a touch of whimsy to Christmas traditions. Though like all Icelandic folklore, there is a darker element.

The 13 Santas

The Yule Lads or ‘Iceland’s 13 Santas,’ these playful characters bring joy and a bit of cheekiness to the holiday season. The first yule lad came down from their home deep in the mountain on the 12th of December to visit you at night. Every night a new Yule Lad visits every home in Iceland until the 24th of December. Remember to leave a shoe in the window every night. If you have been well behaved you will receive a little gift in your shoe to find when you wake up. If you have been naughty you have to beware as you might wake up to a raw potato!

Meet the Icelandic Yule Lads

Here is a snapshot of every Yule Lad and the antic they are known for in the order they will visit every year:

  1. Stekkjastaur (Sheep-Cote Clod): This lad teases sheep and brings a playful energy to the fields.
  2. Giljagaur (Gully Gawk): Hiding in gullies, he loves surprising passersby, making spirits jump with holiday cheer.
  3. Stúfur (Stubby): Despite his size, Stubby boasts a big appetite, especially for stolen pan crusts.
  4. Þvörusleikir (Spoon-Licker): A lover of spoon-licking, he enjoys the simple pleasures of leftover treats.
  5. Pottaskefill (Pot-Licker): Fighting food waste, he scrapes pots for those delicious, clingy bits.
  6. Askasleikir (Bowl-Licker): In the modern era, any bowl, even an IKEA one, is fair game for this lad’s thieving tendencies.
  7. Hurðaskellir (Door-Slammer): If doors slam mysteriously, blame it on Door-Slammer—he loves a dramatic entrance.
  8. Skyrgámur (Skyr-Gobbler): With an insatiable appetite for skyr, he indulges in this healthy Icelandic food.
  9. Bjúgnakrækir (Sausage-Swiper): Keep a watchful eye on your hot dogs and salamis; he might snatch them away.
  10. Gluggagægir (Window-Peeper): Harmless yet mischievous, he might just be the face you glimpse on your window pane.
  11. Gáttaþefur (Doorway-Sniffer): His colossal nose comes in handy to sniff out food, especially the delightful aroma of leaf bread.
  12. Ketkrókur (Meat-Hook): A fan of the Christmas delicacy, smoked lamb, he might beat you to the larder.
  13. Kertasníkir (Candle-Beggar): In the past, he feasted on edible candles made from fat; these days, his dietary choices remain a mystery.

Enter Gryla and Lappeylooder: The Parents of the Yule Lads

Amidst these lively Yule Lads, Gryla, the fearsome troll mother, orchestrates feasts from naughty children. Lappeylooder, her laid-back husband, contentedly indulges in soups, offering a contrasting presence to Gryla’s intensity.

Beware of Jólakötturinn, the Christmas Cat

As the Yule Lads create mischief, don’t forget to heed the warning about Jólakötturinn, the Christmas Cat. Owned by Gryla, this feline lurks, ready to pounce on anyone without new clothes. So, ensure you’re donning those fresh socks and embracing the magic of Icelandic holiday traditions.

As the Yule Lads embark on their annual journey, and Gryla’s clan stirs up the holiday atmosphere, Iceland welcomes Christmas with a unique blend of folklore, fun, and a touch of the extraordinary. May your celebrations be filled with joy, laughter, and perhaps a sprinkle of Yule Lad mischief!

Celebrate Yule With The Grumpy Whale!

Join us throughout the Yule season to learn more about Icelandic christmas festivities. We have created a Yule calendar just for you with all the Yule Lads reimagined as whales. Save this photo as a guide for to see when each Yule Lad whale will be visiting you. You can visit our store for the perfect Christmas gifts and do not forget to especially check out our Christmas mug with grumpy whales carrying Santas´ sleigh.

If you have any questions or want Iceland travel advice please get in touch.