Kertasníkir (Candle-Stealer) The last to arrive, Kertasníkir used to follow children in order to steal their candles, back in the days when children had playing cards and candles for Christmas, and when candles were made from tallow. These days, candles are made from wax, and can make Kertasníkir ill if he eats them. Now, he just looks at their flickering flames, and occasionally forgets, meaning you may still find teeth marks in your candles. Kertasníkir arrives on December 24 and leaves on January 6.
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.