Apparently it would seem like there is the one and only Santa Claus in the whole world. Admired & adored by all, embodying the spirit of Christmas. What kind of Christmas? Like we all would love them to be: happy, over-eaten and rich. That’s why Santa is always laughing, ruddy and fat. All people, children and adults love him. Sometimes they are scared of him a bit as “he is always watching” and he is going to punish those naughty ones. In Poland, such a punishment has always been a rod under a Christmas tree, which obviously is a symbol of a physical abuse. However, it is a tradition and, as it turns out, tradition does not have to be politically correct.
I remember one Christmas Eve when I discovered an oblong well wrapped gift under my tree and it occured to be for me! I almost fainted as was so scared (apparently I felt guilty for being naughty) because I was convinced it was a rod. And this lasted for a few hours! The spectre of a punishment turned out to be more terrible than… it’s suspicion. The gift turned out to be a beautiful umbrella. And I still remember that feeling. Trauma of a lifetime!
So… One Santa Claus can cause a lot of damage. How about thirteen of them then? And what if they are not that kind but nasty, clumsy thiefs?
I was so surprised while visiting Reykjavik, I saw a red letterbox with an inscription that this is a mailbox of Icelandic Santas only! Of course, I started to wonder what it was all about. Then I found out that my beloved Santa doesn’t reign here, that Iceland has its owns Santas! There are 13 of them and they are brothers. They are not humans but mountain trolls and have a terrifying mother who owns an even more terrifying cat. And that complicates Christmas, doesn’t it? How to satisfy the requirements of 13 Santa Clauses and their mother witch and even a cat? Christmas has started to get complicated!
Icelandic Christmas lasts from 12 December and 13 Santa Clauses are so-called Yule Lads. They live in mountains and the holiday season begins when the first Yule Lad (Stiff Legs – Stekkjastaur) arrives down from the mountains 13 days before the Christmas Eve. Yule Lads, just like Santa Claus, are good-hearted but like to eat even more but everyone one of them has different preferences. It’s not just milk and cookies. They like sausages, skyr, sweets, meat, dirty pots, each one something different. They steal their favourite delicacies, while leaving small gifts. Then you get at least thirteen presents! One from each Santa, each day different, every day better and better. And they are not in a sock but in a shoe by the window. And when you’ve been polite, you get even more of them! From the last one of them (Candle Begger – Kertasnikir), traditionally under the christmas tree.
If you have been naughty, you would find only a potato there. It turns out that Icelanders – descendants of ruthless Vikings – were not as strict for their children as we Polish were! A potato is less cruel than a rod, isn’t it? However when you become an adult woman, a rod becomes more like a promising treat than a threat 🙂
Where did it all start? Of course with their parents. Their names are Gryla and Leppaludi, they live in a cave in the Esjan Mountain. Gryla has a big sack in which she puts naughty children and then cooks them in her big pot and eats them together with her lazy third husband (she ate the previous ones). Wow, this is scary!
They have a cat. Christmas Cat – Jolakotturinn, eats those children who have not received any new clothes as a Christmas present. And he eats them raw. This completely changes the nature of things, doesn’t it? Soft gifts are more than welcome now!
And now it’s time for 13 mischiefs. Each of them comes on a different day in the following order.