As the Christmas season rolls around again and time speeding up as you get older, it is this time of year that I start reminiscing on where I’ve been in the world in the past few years and where I would like to go next year. One place that I never spoke about on my blog was Iceland. I got fired from my job to go on this holiday! (more on that later)
I spent a very brief 3 days there near Christmas time (17th December to be exact) and by this point, the sun fully rises at 11am and starts to set around 2.45ish. With limited day light hours, I decided to do a tour anyway and see what Iceland had to offer outside of Reykjavik.
There was two things that stuck out to me while we were driving through the dark countryside on our way to our first stop. The first one was all the churches and graveyards had Christmas lights on them. Blue, white and red, each cross stood out. Imagine you’re on a sleepy drive, the coach lights are down and it’s pitch black and suddenly before you enter a town, you see a church covered in white lights surrounded by multi-coloured crosses; in the far distance you can see the yellow snowy haze of a small sleepy town amongst the hills. I wish I managed to get a picture but luckily it is completely etched in my memory.
The second reason being a story, on how the residents of Iceland celebrate their Christmas. I loved the tale so much that I kind of wish I could bring my future kiddos up on it. So let me tell you the story of the 13 Yule Lads and Gryla.
Meet Gryla, she is a giant Ogress living in the mountains of Iceland. She is the mother of the 13 Yule Lads and is said to be part human, part ogre. She is on her 3rd husband (maybe she’s moved on since my trip? perhaps it’s her 4th now!) and has a black cat who accompanies her who is also a giant. Every Christmas she comes down from the mountains on the hunt for children who have been naughty. Oh, there is no Cole here indeed! It’s rumoured that she makes children-stew and never has a shortage of supplies. Yikes! As for the Cat who accompanies her? he is not picky on children or adults! so you must follow the rule that every person in Iceland must receive an item of clothing or he might eat you too!
The Yule Lads
13 days before Christmas (if that was not obvious) children place a shoe in their window and each night one lad pops by. They leave a gift specifically on how the children have behaved that day inside the shoe. It could be sweets, it could be potatoes! (Stick with me here and try to pass no judgement on these lads, we’ve all got our quirks…) Each day a lad pops by, he leaves 13 days later. I’m going to miss out their Icelandic names here and give you the direct English translations.
- Sheep Harasser – Arrival: 12th December.
The first one of the season and boy will he annoy the absolute hell of your sheep! He has two peg legs and he’s not afraid to use them.
- Gully Gawk
Hides in small ditches just waiting…. to steal your milk!! Directly from your cows (if you have them) blimey.
Apparently a tiny fellow and you know those pans you leave to soak in the pan after having a meal because of the crust? forget it, he’ll do the work for you, by eating it all. (He must be a favourite amongst the adults for sure)
- Spoon Licker
This one is obvious what he does but they are not sure why he does what he does. Does he even know why? He is partial to a wooden spoon apparently.
- Pot Scraper
Bad news if you like left overs for lunch, this lad will eat your left overs while you’re not looking. Can you believe this? the audacity!!
- Bowl Licker
These lads have serious hunger issues and this one will steal the food from your bowls. Tragic.
- Door Slammer
Is it the wind? A ghost? Nope, it’s just this lad slamming all your doors to wake you up, not that you have work or anything.
- Skyr – Gobbler
The famous yogurt from Iceland, this guy really loves the stuff. Too much. I suppose it’s better than Stubby (oops, I did say no judgement, sorry!)
- Sausage Swiper
He just waits and waits until you cook those sausages and swipes them right up. Sounds like my boyfriend, i mean….
- Window Peeper
Contrary to the name, this guy is not a peeping tom. He looks through your window for things to steal!
- Doorway Sniffer
Apparently has a large nose (who would of thought?) and likes to sniff things ! Legend says it’s specifically “snowflake bread” which he is after. Snowflake bread is similar to deep fried pancakes. Can you blame him actually? that sounds GOOD.
Hide your pigs in blankets and your Christmas turkey because this guy likes to steal meat.. with a hook! (Reports say this is not on the hand and is no way related to Captain Hook)
- Finally, hide your Christmas scented candles too because we got a Candle Stealer here!
Following children around the house to find and seek out where your candles are and pinches them. He departs on the 6th of January so even if Christmas has passed.. watch out!
and then Santa pops by and the children can relax! Blimey. What a roller coaster.
As for how I got fired, I’ll try and keep it brief. I was working in a school (as a dinner lady by the way!) and the holiday was bought on Wowcher, but what I didn’t realise at the time was that it included 1 day of term time. This was a Thursday and a cleaning day in the kitchen and so I thought it would be fine but word got out and I was told that if I go on this holiday I wont be allowed back and there we are. Of course I bloody picked the holiday! I was in the position to do so and have no regrets at all.
I hope you enjoyed this little story time. Would you ever tell your kids of Gryla or would you stick to your traditions? Have you ever come across a Yule lad? I’d love to interview you!