Stekkjastaur (Sheep-Cote Clod/Stiff-legs) This lad, the eldest of the Yule lads, sneaks into sheep sheds, hoping to get a sip of milk, but is often thwarted by his stiff legs. He’ll do anything for a hit of calcium. Apparently his creaking legs can often give the game away, both to the sheep and anyone else who should be asleep anyway. Despite this, he is persistent, and is always the first of the Yule lads to arrive. Stekkjastaur arrives on December 12 and departs again on December 25.
The Yule lads, of which there are thirteen in Icelandic folklore, come from the mountains to visit every Christmas. They arrive one by one, and leave again fourteen days later. The Yule lads used to have a bit of a reputation, and whilst they are still mainly naughty, they now leave presents in children’s shoes left on window sills. Unless you have been naughty, of course, then you will receive nothing, or worse, a rotten potato.
Unlike Santa Claus, they do have this mischievous side. Each Yule lad has specialised in one sort of trickery or another, such as licking spoons, slamming doors and stealing sausages. The idea of Santa and the Yule lads has been confused over recent years, with the Yule lads now often seen adopting the red and white costume of Santa himself. This is either an image thing, or the cheeky little scamps might have just been at Santas wardrobe.
The Yule lads are the sons of Grýla and Leppalúði, both mountain dwelling trolls. Grýla is particularly fearsome, and is said to come looking for naughty children at Christmas to put in her pot. A newspaper even blamed Grýla for the Eyjafjallajökull eruption in 2010, although this has never been proven. Leppalúði is a lazy, idle oaf. It’s no wonder that the lads turned out as they did.
Icelandic folklore states that everyone has to get one new piece of clothing at Christmas. Anyone who was left out is in danger of being eaten by a gruesome feline called the Christmas Cat. The Christmas Cat is Grýla’s cat, so thats where it gets its terrible manners, and every effort is made to ensure that no-one in the family gets caught by it. Cat flaps are not popular in Iceland for this reason.
I’ll introduce you to a Yule lad day by day, as they arrive.