iStock_000011311558Small-Tallinn Old Market Square decorated for ChristmasThey celebrate a curious blend of religious practices mixed with traditional folklore…in Iceland, that is.

Nowadays, most Icelanders enjoy a Christmas similar to other modern nations: good food and sharing gifts with friends and family.

However, there’s another historic side to Iceland. They celebrate Icelandic Christmas from December 23 and end with “Epiphany” on January 6 with some unique twists.  And, unlike other nations which have a Father Christmas/Santa Claus type of guy, Icelandic children grow up hearing tales of a motley crew of “Yule Lads.”

You might have had “Frosty the Snowman” or “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer” stories, but Icelandic children Iceland and Reykjavik maplearn of a mountain ogress, Gryla, who mothered 13 rascally “Yule Lads.”  Keep in mind Gryla’s not your sweet Mrs. Santa Claus type: she’s part troll, part animal, and she lives high in Iceland’s mountains with her black cat.

And her specialty?

Gryla and her 13 Yule Lads come down during Christmas hunting for misbehaving boys and girls toboil in their cauldron.  Yikes! Gryla can only take the “bad” kids.  If those children show remorse fortheir errant ways, she HAS to let them go. Sounds to me like Icelandic parents clamping down on naughtiness. 

But, yes, there’s a nice flip side to the tradition.

images (8)Instead of stockings over the fireplace, Icelandic children put a shoe by their bedroom window each of the 13 nights leading up to Christmas. Those pesky Yule Lads spread joy by putting candy or small gifts in the shoes of “good” kids and rotting potatoes in the shoes of “bad” kids. At least the Yule Lads don’t mess with boiling cauldrons.

The last unique tradition is Iceland’s “Christmas Cat.”  Folklore decrees that each Icelander must receive a new article of clothing for Christmas, or they’ll be in terrible danger.  Really, I think an Icelandic grandma started this one just to make sure her loved ones wore the “attractive” sweater she knitted for them. Call this the “wear-the-sweater-or-get-eaten-by-Christmas-Cat” tradition.  Yeah, I’m serious. That’s the tradition.

I can vouch for a few well-meaning but waaayyyy off the mark gifts from my loving grandmas.  

Now, it’s your turn. Share a Christmas tradition or funky gift that stands out in your family lore.  I’d love to know!! And thanks for stopping by-

Merry Christmas!

GinaThe burning candles, balls and gold ribbons it are Christmas

This is part of As You Wish Reviews: 12 Days of Christmas Blog Hop. Please take a look at the blogs other authors offer over these festive 12 day.


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