A Little Time and a Keyboard: Soon, We Welcome the Yule Lads {Icelandic Tradition}

Soon, We Welcome the Yule Lads {Icelandic Tradition}

Monday, December 2, 2013

When we were in Iceland, we learned about a tradition for Christmas called the Yule Lads. The Yule Lads are mischievious souls descended from trolls. For 13 nights before Christmas, one Yule Lad comes down from their home in the mountains to either leave a treat or a rotting potato in a child's
shoe. The type of "gift" depends upon the child's behavior. Children leave shoes in their bedroom windows waiting for the Yule Lads. Towards the end of the season, the Yule Lads return home one by one for 13 days after Christmas. The last one leaves on January 6th marking the end of the Christmas season.

The Yule Lads initially served as a way to scare children into behaving properly. In fact, the Yule Lads are the children of the ogress Gryla. Gryla would come down from the mountains each Christmas season to search for naughty children to boil while her children would engage in hijinks. Pretty scary for little ones! Fortunately, the Yule Lads have become a little more benign over the years. Yet, the tradition has retained its charm and we are enamored with the idea of adding this tradition to our holiday celebration. Each Yule Lad has a certain peculiarity about him, so we thought that the tradition would add a dash more magic to the holidays.

In past Icelandic folklore, there were more Yule Lads. Today, Icelandic children are visited by 13, including Sheep-Cot Clod, Gully Gawk, Stubby, Spoon Licker, Pot Scraper, Bowl Licker, Door Slammer, Skyr Gobbler, Sausage Swiper, Window Peeper, Door Sniffer, Meat Hook and Candle Beggar. Intriguing, right? The National Museum of Iceland has an excellent explanation of these sneaky lads as well as excerpts from a poem about them. One of our favorites is the Window Peeper who is not as greedy as some of his brothers. He merely likes to take little peeks inside homes. However, he has been known to nick toys  from time to time. The Sausage Swiper is another favorite who likes to hide up in the rafters and take sausages as they are being smoked. We just love the fanciful nature of this folklore!

We are excited to add this to our holiday traditions! We have a lovely calendar to guide us through the fun! Our first Yule Lad arrives on December 12!


  1. I've never heard about this before. It does sound like a pretty cool tradition (like Elf on the Shelf on steroids! LOL). Very cool - thanks for sharing!

    1. I know, it is similar to Elf on the Shelf---but has been around much longer! I think it is going to be fun. I wonder if we will have to give our daughter a rotten potato. Lol! I think she would be annoyed enough by a regular potato. I, on the other hand, would gladly accept a regular potato!