The Horror of Iceland’s Christmas

Once upon a Time lived a little old lady in the woods, she had 13 children and they lived happily ever after….

No. That’s not the story.

Our legend starts with Gryla, she’s a giant troll! She’s an important part in Icelandic Christmas tradition and apart from looking evil, she also likes to cook and eat the children who have been naughty all year.

Gryla is married to Leppaludi, and together they have 13 children. The Yule Lads.

Instead of leaving stockings out, the Icelandic children leave shoes on their windowsills. Each of the Yule Lads appears one night after the other on the 13 nights before Christmas. If the child has been good they will receive a gift, if not they receive a potato.

The brothers have great names and get up to some naughty things on their visit. Some of my favourites are Spoon Licker, Pot Licker, Door Slammer and Sausage stealer. You can guess what they get up to.

And then finally is the Yule Cat. He is an overgrown house cat and instead of hunting mice hunts for children! The Yule Cat only chooses people who haven’t been given something new to wear lately. These days parents still make sure there is at least a pair of socks in the Christmas gifts.

What a wonderful and scary way for children and families to spend the Christmas Holidays.

I love these sorts of Christmas stories and would love to hear traditions from where you are from. Please email me your stories to be featured at

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