The Icelandic Yule Lads: A Comprehensive Guide

Dive into the enchanting tales of Icelandic Yule Lads, mischievous creatures that add a sprinkle of magic and merriment to Iceland's festive season

Icelandic Yule Lads

blog author By Johanna Sigurðardóttir shield verificationVerified Expert

Embark on a journey to the frost-kissed land of Iceland, where tradition dances with mystery under the ethereal glow of the Northern Lights

Here, the Icelandic Yule Lads aren't just folklore figures; they are part of a captivating Christmas tradition, as integral as the tinsel on a tree. At Reykjavík Cars, we don't just rent vehicles; we celebrate these captivating traditions year after year. 

Now, we yearn to beckon you into this magical world, sharing our knowledge of these mischievous brothers as if revealing secret ingredients to a time-honored Icelandic recipe.

What Are the Icelandic Yule Lads?

Often mistaken for elves, the Icelandic Yule Lads are actually trolls deeply rooted in the country's rich folklore. Their origins can be traced back to the 17th century, when they were first mentioned in Icelandic books and literature as the sons of a troll named Grýla!

Icelandic yule lads

For this reason, the 13 brothers are not your typical Iceland Christmas elves; they are, in fact, Icelandic Christmas trolls! Each of the 13 Yule Lads is known for a specific prank they play on the people of Iceland. Arriving sequentially over the 13 days leading up to Christmas, they each add a unique charm to the Icelandic Christmas traditions. 

While they share the gift-giving characteristic with Santa Claus, the Yule Lads stand apart with their distinct personalities and pranks, making Iceland's Christmas season an adventurous affair.

Who Are the Icelandic Yule Lads?

Let's explore the intricate identities of the Jolasveinar, as they are traditionally known in Iceland. These 13 Yule Lads each have their own unique personality and a penchant for mischief. From Stúfur, the pint-sized kitchen terror, to Kertasníkir, the cunning candle stealer, each of the Yule Lads has a distinctive way of creating festive chaos. 

They embody the humor and spirit of Icelandic folklore, reflecting the country's cultural tales and traditions. Some of them are more of a nuisance than harmful, like Gluggagægir, the peeping window peeper, who wishes to satisfy his curiosity. 

icelandic yule lads

Yet, others can be somewhat sinister, like Gáttaþefur, the odorous doorway sniffer, who uses his oversized nose to sniff out good food. Despite their pranks, the 13 Yule Lads are beloved figures in Icelandic folklore, their antics bringing a unique cheer to the holiday season.

The 13 Icelandic Yule Lad's Names and Their Mischievous Pranks

Have you ever wondered about the Yule Lads' names and the pranks they're infamous for? Who are these mischievous figures that light up Icelandic folklore every Christmas? Sit back and relax because, boy, are you in for a treat!

1. Stekkjarstaur - The Troublesome Sheep Botherer 

The first to arrive is Stekkjarstaur, a Yule Lad with a penchant for bothering sheep. However, his stiff legs often hinder his mischief-making. Legend paints him with peg legs, making his sheep-chasing antics a humorous sight in many an Icelandic tale.


2. Giljagaur - The Sly Gully Lurker

Next in line among the Yule Lads of Iceland is Giljagaur, a crafty fellow who hides in gullies, waiting to sneak into cowsheds and startle the cows. With bright eyes and a mischievous grin, his tales often leave children wondering: 'Is he lurking in that shadow?' A sneaky milk thief indeed!

3. Stúfur - The Pint-Sized Kitchen Terror

Our third Icelandic Yule Lad is Stúfur, affectionately known as the 'Shorty.' He prefers to lurk around kitchens, his petite stature allowing him to steal pans to lick the crust off sneakily! With a rotund belly and a cheeky grin, he's the diminutive daredevil bringing a dash of culinary chaos to Icelandic Christmas traditions. Beware of missing leftovers. You might have been visited by this pint-sized prankster!

Icelandic yule lads Stúfur

4. Þvörusleikir - The Persistent Spoon Thief

The fourth of the Icelandic Yule Lads, Þvörusleikir, is a notorious spoon thief with an unusual fondness for Icelandic wooden spoons, known as 'Þvörs'! This lanky lad's elongated arms are handy when reaching for his wooden trophies. Legend says he's quite the kitchen acrobat, performing breathtaking spoon heists that leave the locals bemused and utensil-less!


5. Pottaskefill - The Nighttime Pot Scraper

Meet our fifth Yule Lad, Pottaskefill, a nocturnal nuisance known for his pot-scraping shenanigans. This rambunctious rogue enjoys sneaking into homes to scrape leftovers from pots! With twinkling eyes and fingers as nimble as the Icelandic Christmas cat's whiskers, Pottaskefill's tales of late-night scrapings keep Icelanders checking their cookware with a chuckle.


6. Askasleikir - The Unstoppable Bowl Licker

Next up amongst the Yule Lads of Iceland is Askasleikir, a merry miscreant with an insatiable appetite for 'Askur,' traditional Icelandic bowls with lids. With a giggle and a hop, this jocular jester slips under beds, licking clean any unattended Askur he uncovers. Rumour has it that his tongue is as quick as the Aurora Borealis, leaving every bowl in the house spotless!


7. Hurðaskellir - The Loud Door Slammer

Seventh in the line-up of the 13 Yule Lads, Hurðaskellir takes pleasure in causing a nightly racket by slamming doors. Tall with a wide grin, his boisterous antics have inspired countless tales. Many a slumbering Icelander has jolted awake, chuckling at the thought of this mischievous door-drummer's nocturnal romp!


8. Skyrgámur - The Insatiable Skyr Gobbler

The eighth prankster amongst the Icelandic Yule Lads is Skyrgámur, a towering figure with a monstrous appetite for Skyr, Iceland's traditional yogurt. His tales often depict him sneaking into pantries to devour entire tubs of Skyr! Despite his large frame and hearty appetite, he's surprisingly sneaky, leaving only empty containers as evidence of his nighttime feasts. Beware, Skyr lovers, your tasty treat may not be safe this Christmas!


9. Bjúgnakrækir - The Stealthy Sausage Swiper

Meet one more member of the Yule Lads of Iceland, Bjúgnakrækir, the stealthy sausage swiper. Known for his knack for snagging sausages right from under the cook's nose, his escapades make for deliciously mischievous tales. With his long arms and sneaky grin, Bjúgnakrækir is a master at creating a sausage shortage just in time for Christmas dinner!


10. Gluggagægir - The Peeping Window Peeper

Among the Icelandic Yule Lads, Gluggagægir is a notorious nosy parker. His specialty? Peeping through windows, searching for trinkets to snatch. Cloaked in a tattered shawl with wide-eyed fascination, this Yule Lad is often the subject of stories that induce chuckles rather than fright. So, remember to draw your curtains - if you don't want a peeping visitor this festive season!


11. Gáttaþefur - The Odorous Doorway Sniffer

Meet Gáttaþefur, the eleventh member of the Icelandic Yule Lads. He's got a nose like no other, a large snout that he uses to sniff out good food around the Christmas season. Known for his comical nose and jolly demeanor, his tales often revolve around the mishaps he encounters while using his enormous schnozzle to locate his next treat. His stories are a gentle reminder to safeguard your holiday feasts from his notorious sniffs.


12. Ketkrókur - The Agile Meat Hook

The eleventh Yule Lad, Ketkrókur, is known for his agility and his love for meat. Using a long hook, he snatches any hanging meat within his reach. With a twinkle in his eye and a hook that never misses, his stories provide a humorous reminder to hang your holiday hams high!


13. Kertasníkir - The Candle Stealer

The last but not least of the Yule Lads is Kertasníkir, known as the Candle Stealer. This light-fingered lad is notorious for swiping candles. With his speedy feet and twinkling eyes, Kertasníkir's stories of waxy heists add a spark of mischief to the Yuletide festivities. Keep your candles close, or they may become this Yule Lad's Yuletide snack!


Icelandic Yule Lad Traditions and Celebrations

The arrival of the Icelandic Santas, better known as the Yule Lads, is a time of great excitement and anticipation in Iceland. Each night, starting 13 days before Christmas, children place their best shoes by the window, hoping to receive gifts from the visiting Yule Lad. 

Those who've been naughty might find a potato instead! Traditional songs and poems echo through homes, recounting the tales and antics of each lad, further embedding their stories in the heart of Icelandic culture. But the Yule Lads aren't the only figures of intrigue. Grýla, their fearsome mother, is always on the lookout for naughty children to add to her stew. 

And then there's the Icelandic Christmas Cat, a giant feline that prowls around, ensuring everyone receives new clothes for Christmas, or else they might become its next meal! Together, these figures make Icelandic Christmas a rich tapestry of tales and traditions.

Icelandic christmas

How To Celebrate the Icelandic Yule Lads With Your Family

Engaging with the Icelandic Santa figures, also known as the Icelandic Yule Lads, can be an excellent way to bring a touch of Icelandic Christmas spirit into your home. You can create fun activities and games related to each Yule Lad. 

For example, play 'Hide and Seek' emulating 'Giljagaur's gully lurking or a spoon relay race in honor of 'Þvörusleikir'! For a crafty afternoon, consider making Yule Lad ornaments or masks. Create a Hurðaskellir door hanger, a Gáttaþefur nose ornament, or a Kertasníkir candleholder. Each craft can serve as a delightful reminder of each Yule Lad's unique mischief. 

For an adventurous twist, consider partnering with Reykjavík Cars for a Yule Lad-themed road trip. Explore significant locations in Iceland related to Yule Lad lore, bringing their stories to life through an immersive cultural journey. With our wide range of cars to choose from, you can select the perfect vehicle for your Icelandic adventure. 

Gryla cat

The Icelandic Yule Lads in Folklore and Mythology

The Iceland Santas, or the Icelandic Yule Lads, have deep roots in the nation's folklore and mythology. Ancient tales and sagas passed down through generations first introduced these mischievous figures, painting them as more menacing entities than the playful characters we know today. 

Over time, their narratives evolved, reflecting societal changes and shifting values. Initially, they were depicted as the children of the troll Grýla, who would snatch naughty children away. As centuries passed, their tales became less grim, transforming them into the beloved figures that Icelandic children eagerly await during the Christmas season. 

Their significance also ties back to Icelandic pagan traditions, where winter solstice celebrations merged with Christian customs, giving birth to the unique Yule Lad traditions. Today, Iceland's Santas stand as a testament to Iceland's rich cultural tapestry, blending ancient myths with modern festivities.

Iceland christmas culture

Icelandic Yule Lad Children's Books and Movies

Immerse your family in the enchanting world of the Icelandic Yule Lads through a selection of popular children's books and movies. 

Books such as 'The Yule Lads: A Celebration of Iceland's Christmas Folklore' by Brian Pilkington vividly illustrate the antics of the Yule Lads. At the same time, Neflix's series, 'Hilda: Chapter 10: The Yule Lads,' is a delightful-animated feature that brings the Yule Lads' mischievous tales to life on screen. 

These resources not only provide entertaining family time but also deepen the understanding of Icelandic cultural traditions. Don't forget to celebrate Jolabokaflod, the Icelandic' Christmas Book Flood,' by curling up with a good Yule Lads book this holiday season!

Jolabokaflod iceland

Icelandic Yule Lad Gifts and Merchandise

Immerse yourself further into the Icelandic Christmas spirit with a broad range of Icelandic Yule Lad gifts and merchandise. These products, inspired by the antics of the beloved Icelandic Christmas trolls, are a delightful way to bring the Yule Lads into your home. 

Popular merchandise includes Yule Lad-themed toys and clothing that pay homage to each lad's unique personality and mischief. Children especially will adore cuddly plush toys of their favorite Yule Lad or a t-shirt featuring the notorious 'Kertasníkir.' For those keen on authenticity, the best places to purchase genuine Yule Lad merchandise are local Icelandic stores, craft fairs, and Christmas markets in Reykjavík

Many of these items are handcrafted, ensuring a unique touch. Online Icelandic stores also offer a wide range of products, making it easy for fans worldwide to celebrate the magic of the Icelandic Christmas trolls. 

Christmas markets reykjavik

Icelandic Yule Lad Tours and Events

If you're eager to experience the enchanting lore of the Icelandic Yule Lads firsthand, consider embarking on one of the festive tours. The Private Reykjavik Christmas Walking Tour takes you on a magical journey through Reykjavik's Christmas-lit streets, exploring locations significant to Yule Lad folklore. 

Participants can hunt for Icelandic Yule Lads hidden around the city as they indulge in traditional Icelandic Christmas food and drinks. Additionally, the Reykjavik Christmas Walking Tour provides a family-friendly excursion that dives into the stories of the 13 Icelandic Yule Lads, their troll mother Grýla, and the Icelandic Christmas Cat. As part of the tour package, participants will receive special discounts at certain Christmas stores, stalls, and restaurants.

These tours not only offer an immersive cultural experience but also help to keep the magical traditions surrounding the Icelandic Yule Lads alive. For those lucky enough to be in Iceland during December, these tours and the special events that occur around them are a must-see.

Christmas activities, Iceland

What Is the Best Way To Find the Icelandic Yule Lads?

In search of the Icelandic Yule Lads? Well, they're not on social media! The best way to find these festive pranksters is to hit the Icelandic roads. So, why wait? Rent a car in Reykjavík and embark on a jolly journey of Yule Lad spotting. Just remember, if you find a potato in your shoe, you're probably on the right track! Happy hunting and festive driving!

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