Thursday, December 15, 2005

The 13 Yuletide Lads

Thirteen days before Christmas the Yulemen begin to arrive at farms and in towns. These 13 brothers are strange creatures, part troll and part prankster in human form.

Actually, they are much meeker today than they were in former times, when according to Icelandic lore, they could be quite dangerous. Their father and mother, Grýla and Leppalúði, were terrible trolls who caught and ate disobedient children. Even the family cat was a monster.

On Christmas Day it searched out any child that didn't get a new piece of clothing for Christmas and ate, if not the child, at least his ration of Christmas food. The Yulemen played pranks on people and stole from them.

Each had his special Christmas preference--food, or candles for example - and a distinctive way of getting his hands on it which was reflected in his name.

Today's prosperity has softened the lads a bit and now they are good-natured boys who come bearing gifts.

They used to dress in warm woolen clothes in tones of black white gray and brown. These days they sometimes put on red suits, which they claim are their best clothes. The night before the first Yuleman arrives (December 12th) there are suddenly little shoes on the windowsills of the bedrooms of all Icelandic children. The reason for the shoes is that the children know that if they have behaved well, they can expect the Yuleman to sneak a little treat into the shoe while they are asleep.

If they have not behaved well, however, they may find only a potato or nothing at all in the shoe when they wake up. Sometimes the children leave a little something in the shoe for the Yuleman to find - a sausage for "Sausage Snatcher" or maybe a candle for "Candle Beggar".



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