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The Yule Lads are coming to town!

Updated: Dec 25, 2023

A window with a view of a small Icelandic village. A single shoe has been placed on the windowsill.
A shoe on a windowsill awaiting the arrival of the Yule Lads

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.

The Icelandic Yule Lads are the sons of two trolls, Grýla and Leppalúði. Their mother Grýla was a nasty piece of work who haunted down naughty kids the days before Christmas. I guess she just hibernated the rest of the year or changed her diet because there are no tales of her eating kids at other times of the year. Her hubby Leppalúði didn't do much of anything, so he must have been hibernating all year long.

The thirteen sons of Grýla and Leppalúði were a mischievous lot that came down from the mountains to steal food and play tricks on people the thirteen nights before Christmas. Each one of them had his crime of choice, which is reflected in their names, most of them lurking around kitchens and pantries. They arrived one by one, the first one the night of December 12th and the last one the night of the 24th of December. On Christmas night they would refrain from any mischief and just watch the Christmas lights. Then they started their way back to the mountains, also one by one, the first one on December 25th and the last on January 6th, which is the last day of Christmas. They have now been reformed up to a certain point in the past decades and although they have the occasional relapse, they have now taken on the role of the internationally acclaimed Santa Claus, sneaking treats in children's shoes placed on the windowsill the evening of December 11th.

They always arrive and leave in the same order, as follows:

The Icelandic Christmas Legends ornaments from Raven Design, featuring Grýla, Leppalúði, the Yule Lads 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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Lovely tradition! The sweets în the shoes are so much like our Romanian tradition of Santa Nicholas on December 6.


Jason Webb
Jason Webb
Dec 15, 2023

With 13 children I think we can guess what Leppaluthi‘s main role in the partnership was. :) This is a fantastic traditIonal Icelandic Christmas story. Thank you for sharing. :)

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