The Yule Lads

The Yule Lads

The Yule Lads visit the National Museum from the 12th of December until 24th, daily at 11am. They wear their old Icelandic costumes and sing and tell children (and adults) stories. Admission ticket is needed.

The Icelandic jólasveinar (Yuletide Lads) have little connection with the international red-clothed Santa Claus. The Yuletide Lads are descended from trolls, and orginally they were bogeymen who were used to scare children. During this century they have mellowed, and they sometimes wear their best, red, suits. But they still tend to pilfer and play tricks. They are the sons of two of the most hideous ogres ever known in Iceland, Grýla and Leppalúði.

The 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.

The eve before December 12, everyone who believes in the Yule Lads will put a shoe on the window sill and keep it there for 13 days. This very specific number has to do with the number of Icelandic Yule lads. Every night until Christmas, a new Yule Lad will visit the window and place a small gift in the shoe. 

1. Stekkjastaur (Sheep-Cote Clod)  — 12th December

2. Giljagaur (Gully Gawk) — 13th December

3. Stúfur (Stubby) — 14th December

4. Þvörusleikir (Spoon Licker) — 15th December

5. Pottasleikir (Pot Licker) — 16th December

6. Askasleikir (Bowl Licker) — 17th December

7. Hurðaskellir (Door Slammer) — 18th December

8. Skyrgámur (Skyr Gobbler) — 19th December

9. Bjúgnakrækir (Sausage Swiper) — 20th December

10. Gluggagægir (Window Peeper) — 21st December

11. Gáttaþefur (Door Sniffer) — 22nd December

12. Ketrókur (Meat Hook) — 23rd December

13. Kertasníkir (Candle Beggar) — 24th December

The Treasure Trail, Where is the Yule Cat? is available at the reception desk from 1 December to 6 January. It is a fun activity for families.

The Yule Cat is a huge and vicious cat who lurks about the snowy countryside during Christmas time and eats people who have not received any new clothes to wear before Christmas Eve.