number of Yuletide Lads varied in olden times from one region of Iceland
to another. The number 13 is first seen in a poem on Grýla (the
Lads' mother) in the 18th century, and their names were published by Jón
Árnason in his folklore collection in 1862. About 60 different
names of Yuletide Lads are known.
Grýla and Leppalúði are the parents of the Yuletide Lads, and their pet is the Christmas Cat; children feared all these characters in times past.
On December 12 the Yuletide Lads begin to come to town. The first is Stekkjarstaur (Sheepfold Stick), who would try to drink the milk from the farmers' ewes.
On December 13 Giljagaur (Gully Oaf) arrives. Before the days of milking machines, he would sneak into the cowshed and skim the froth off the pails of milk.
The Lad who arrives on December 14 is Stúfur (Shorty), who, as his name implies, is on the small side. He was also known as Pönnuskefill (pan-scraper), as he scraped scraps of food of the pans.
On December 15, Þvörusleikir (Spoon-licker) comes down from the mountains. He would steal the wooden spoon that had been used for stirring. When he visits the National Museum, he goes looking for wooden spoons.
On December 16, Pottasleikir (Pot-licker) comes visiting. He tried to snatch pots that had not been washed, and lick the scraps from them.
arrives on December 17. He hid under beds, and if someone put his wooden
food-bowl in the floor, he grabbed it and licked it clean.
On December 21, Gluggagægir (Peeper) arrives. He is not as greedy as some of his brothers, but awfully nosy, peeping through windows and even stealing toys he likes the look of.
On December 22 Gáttaþefur
(Sniffer) comes calling. He has a big nose, and he loves the smell of
cakes being baked for Christmas. He often tries to snatch a cake or two
for himself. December 22 was sometimes called hlakkandi (looking forward),
because the children had started looking forward to Christmas.
Nationan Museum of Iceland has not yet their Christmas Lads pages in English
but you can look at the drawings of the new
stylish clothes for the lads and the photographs.
with permission from the National Museum of Iceland.