Been Naughty Or Nice? by E Cho


For centuries a popular folklore in Iceland has been that of the Grýla and Leppalúði, the parents of the 13 Yule Lads. Grýla is a wicked witch like character, used to scare the children. Around Christmas time, she would come down from the mountains in Dimmuborgir, Myvatnssveit and take away the naughty children. The family's pet, the Yuletide cat would come on Christmas and snatch the children who did not get new clothes on the day. The Yule Lads were no better either, their names suggesting the type of mischief they were likely to get in; Spoon Licker, Pot Licker, Meat-snatcher, Sheepfold-stick, Gilly Oaf, Shorty, Window-peeper, Bowl-licker, Door-slammer, Skyr-glutton, Sausage-pilfer, Sniffer and Candle-beggar.

In pre-Christian, times most of the Europe celebrated the winter festival of Yule during the month of December and later the dates for the festival were fixed to match the Christian calendar, on 25th December. During the last couple of centuries, the family's image has taken a turn for the better. Yule Lads, who earlier came one by one before Yule to create mischief, now have taken up the task of gifting children around Xmas time. The children in the town place their best shoe in the window and each night, for thirteen nights, one of them comes down from the mountains and places a gift in it if the child has been good. The naughty ones, on the other hand, only get a rotten potato.

The change in the folklore came with the arrival of Santa Claus on the scene. Icelanders, around the start of the 20th century, decided to change the Yule Lads' image, and it became a mixture of Santa Claus and the Scandinavian Julenisser. The Lads, originally dressed in rags, but now they have taken up Santa's garb as well, black boots, red pants, tunic and hat with white trimmings. The change has really been for the good and now a days, instead of snatching and stealing, they tend to ask and normally get what they want.

The Lads also make special appearances at the Christmas dances and sing carols with the kids and always leave a bag of goodies for the children before they leave. At Xmas time, Dimmuborgir in Myvatnssveit, is the place to be for kids. Children can meet these cheeky Santas and get their picture taken in this beautiful natural setting. The Lads come out at their caves door every day from the 3rd of December from 1 to 3 p.m.

For adults also, the place promises a trip of a life time. Visit Godafoss (waterfall of the gods), Lake Myvatn and the lava formation of Dimmuborgir. At night look out for the northern lights to brighten up the sky. You can venture around in the area where the Lads live and take a dip in the geothermal nature baths of Myvatn. The place is blessed with nature's beauty in abundance, and the town is bursting with the spirit of Christmas, a perfect place to be, during the holiday season.

Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!!!

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