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The Yule Cat

The Yule Cat on the Prowl in an Icelandic fishing village
The Yule Cat on the Prowl

The Icelandic Christmas legends might seem very dark and lacking in Christmas spirit to outsiders. But it's important to remember the tough existence they were born out of. The majority of Icelanders lived in extreme poverty in sod houses until the turn of the 20th century. As most of Icelandic folklore, these legends reflect the constant struggle of survival in a brutally harsh climate, through the long, dark winters.

If there is any monster in Icelandic folklore as scary as Grýla, it would be the Yule Cat. The Yule Cat is a monster of a cat, that prowls the countryside on Christmas night, hunting for those unfortunate enough to not receive any new clothes before Christmas. In recent years it has been rumored to be the pet of Grýla and her gang of Yule Lads, but no one really knows where he comes from or where he hides out for the rest of the year. In centuries past, warm clothes were even more essential for survival than today, so Yule Cat or not, the wool needed to be spun, and knitted or woven into warm clothes before the cold of winter hit. I'm sure the threat of the Yule Cat was a great incentive to get things done in time. Even today, it's customary to gift some article of clothing for Christmas to ensure the ones we love "fara ekki í jólaköttinn" - won't go to the Yule Cat.

The Icelandic Christmas Legends ornaments from Raven Design, featuring the Yule Lads, Grýla, Leppalúði and the Yule Cat are now available in my online shop. Shipping is available to Europe and N-America, if your country is not listed, but you would like to buy the ornaments send me a line at

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First time hearing about this. Thanks for the interesting factoid!


Jason Webb
Jason Webb
Dec 25, 2023

We were in awe of the creativity and entrepreneurship that we saw time after time all over Iceland, I have no doubt the climate and environment are partially responsible. I know what it is to worry about finishing winter preparation AND the harvest before the cold and the heaviest snows set in. Twice in my lifetime the big snows and heavy cold came super early and we weren’t ready. This Icelandic tradition makes lots of sense.

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