Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Entry: Yule Lads

I am having trouble wrapping my narrow American mind around this.

In Iceland, instead of Santa Claus (well, considering the scope of globalization, I'm sure Icelanders are familiar with Santa-- I digress), the traditional Christmas Characters are known as Jólasveinarnir, or the Yule Lads. Now, they might sound like the kind of folk band that wears matching sweater vests, but in actuality they are thirteen sons of trolls who come around one by one, starting with Stekkjastaur on December 12, and stay for two weeks each, the last one, Kertasníkir, leaves on January 6. And, apparently, they bring four weeks of utter misery, although in modern times they have taken to leaving presents in children's shoes, probably at the advice of a wise publicist.

Anyway, back to the mischief... each Lad has a unique method of harassing the good citizens of Iceland. You can see the whole list (and the translation of the Lads' names) if you read the article, but to give you a taste: Stekkjastaur, the first one, "harasses sheep." I'm not going to make the obvious joke. The other one I mentioned, Kertasnikir, steals candles from children, presumably said children's only source of light. I don't know if finding a Rubik's cube in my shoes would make up for wandering around lost in the dark and the cold. Most of the others commit food-related shenanigans, such as Bjúgnakrækir, who hides in the rafters of a house and steals sausages hung up for smoking.

To top it all off, "the Yule Lads are often depicted with the Yuletide Cat, a beast that, according to folklore, eats children that don't receive new clothes in time for Christmas." The hell? I understand legends where naughty children receive some kind of grim punishment, but not receiving new clothing in time for Christmas? Are children in Iceland especially whiny when they're dragged to the mall for new clothing?

So let that be a lesson to you: before you bitch that Santa didn't bring you an iPhone, remember that you could be wandering around candleless and sausageless in the Icelandic winter with a traumatized sheep.

1 comment:

SamiHolloway said...

"So let that be a lesson to you: before you bitch that Santa didn't bring you an iPhone, remember that you could be wandering around candleless and sausageless in the Icelandic winter with a traumatized sheep."

... terrified that a horrendous cat might eat you whole if you can't find your way home in time to get new clothes.

This is totally a warning I'm passing on to my children, along with the story of Black Peter, who follows Santa and carries off bad kids.

~;)