Saturday, December 12, 2015

Jólasveinar at Dimmuborgir

Who comes first to town?

Iceland is such a small country with a small number of inhabitants. However, Icelanders do not only have one Santa Claus, but there are 13 Yule Lads.

The jólasveinar are 13 troll brothers. Throughout the year they live with their parents, the old troll woman Grýla and her third husband Leppalúði, and the Christmas cat Jólakötturinn in Dimmuborgir near lake Mývatn. Dimmuborgir, the dark castles, are oddly shaped lava formations. The towers, gullies and peaks are reminiscent of ruined castles and towns. And not only Grýla and her family are said to be living here...


In the 13 nights before Christmas day (starting on December 12th) the jólasveinar come down from Dimmuborgir to the houses and farms of Iceland's human inhabitants. One brother after another arrives to cause mischief among the mortals. 

While visiting the humans every year, each of the Icelandic Christmas fellows has developed his own preferences. They have different tastes and like different kinds of fun. Of course, people have meanwhile noticed what the jólasveinar are doing in their homes, especially in their larders. They found out who came and swiped food. Thus, the Icelanders gave the Yule Lads funny names reflecting their favorite foods or their favorite way of playing pranks.

Stekkjarstaur, "Sheep-Cote Clod", harasses sheep. He loves to drink sheep's milk directly from the ewes' udder. But he has very long, stiff legs that make this quite difficult for him.

Giljagaur is the "Gully Gawk" who hides himself in gullies waiting for an opportunity to get into the cowshed and to steal the milk.

Stúfur, the "Stubby", is the smallest of the Yule Lads. He loves to lick burnt and crunchy bits out of frying pans. 

Þvörusleikir is the "Spoon-Licker". 

Pottaskefill, the "Pot-Scraper", with his long tongue, licks out leftovers from cooking pots. 

Askasleikir, the "Bowl-Licker" got his name because he lurks below the bed to steal someone's food bowl. 

Hurðaskellir is the "Door-Slammer". 

Skyrgrámur is the "Skyr-Gobbler". 

Bjúgnakrækir is a passionate "Sausage-Swiper". 

Gluggagægir, thw "Window-Peeper", is terribly curious and secretly peeps through everybody's windows.

Gáttaþefur, the "Doorway-Sniffer", sniffs out with his huge nose where people store their bread.

Ketkrókur is the "Meat-Hook". With his long hook he swipes smoked meat through the chimney.

Finally, Kertasníkir, the last of the Yule Lads, is the "Candle-Stealer". In the old times candles were made of tallow, and so they were edible. Tallow candles do not only light up beautifully, but they are also to Kertasníkir's taste

From the first Christmas day on the Yule Lads go back home to their mother, one by one, in the same order. The last one leaves on January 6th - the end of the Christmas season in Iceland.

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