Wednesday, December 15, 2010

A little something about the Icelandic Santa Clauses!

Stúfur, my favourite Santa Clause! He is very, very tiny.

I quickly mentioned the thirteen Icelandic Santas in yesterday's Christmas Wish List, and since our Santa Clauses (if they can even be called that!) are so different from the American one, I figured that maybe some of you would be interested in reading a little bit about those Icelandic ones. So here we go!

The Santa Clauses are thirteen. They are all brothers, sons of the trolls Grýla (their mother) and Leppalúði (their father). Their pet is the black and big "Jólaköttur", or Christmas cat. The family is often said to live in the Icelandic mountain Esjan, which can be seen from Iceland's capital city, Reykjavík.

In the old days, those thirteen brothers were not so good as they are today. One by one, they would come to the old Icelandic farmhouses, and there, they would steal food, irritate the people and scare them, and the last one, which came the night before Christmas (our big Christmas night is on the 24th, so he would come the night between the 23rd and the 24th), would even try to literally steal Christmas, by stealing the people's candles. Christmas without light in your world, are really no Christmas.

But today, those dear boys have changed dramatically. They are now nothing but good, and they even help parents in keeping Iceland's children on their best behaviour. How? Well, thirteen nights before Christmas, the evening of the 11th of December, all Icelandic children put their shoes by their window. And if they have been good the whole year, and go early to bed, then the first Santa Claus, Stekkjastaur, puts a small gift in their shoe. This is then repeated until Christmas come, and then all thirteen of them will have arrived to the inhabited parts of Iceland.
In the correct order, these are the Icelandic Santa Clauses:

1. Stekkjastaur, which means "someone who walks on two wooden sticks, instead of feet.
2. Giljagaur, who used to come into the old farmhouses and drink a little bit of the milk.
3. Stúfur, he is my favourite! He is teeny tiny, and he used to steal cooking pots and ate what was left of food on them.
4. Þvörusleikir, meaning "someone who licks wooden spoons" ("þvara" means "a wooden spoon").
5. Pottaskefill, meaning "someone who eats what is left of food in cooking pots".
6. Askasleikir, but "askur" is an old kind of a dish for food, and "sleikir" is someone who licks. You can do the math, this one licked all that was left of people's food from their dishes when they weren't looking.
7. Hurðaskellir, which could be translated "doorslammer". Yes, he slammed people's doors in the dead of night, in order to wake them up.
8. Skyrgámur, but "skyr" is an Icelandic milk product (kind of like thick yoghurt) and "gámur" means someone who eats a lot. This one ate people's skyr.
9. Bjúgnakrækir, but this one stole people's... well, "bjúga" is kind of a thick hotdog. He lowered himself down people's chimneys, and with a hook, he stole the "bjúgu" which were being cooked over open fire below the chimney.
10. Gluggagægir, meaning "windowpeeker", if that's a word :) He looked through people's windows, trying to see if they had something he could steal from them later.
11. Gáttaþefur, who could smell good food from afar.
12. Ketkrókur, or "meathook", used to stick his long hook down people's chimneys, in order to steal their meat.
13. Kertasníkir, but "kerti" means "candles". Now that his brothers had stolen all of the people's good food, he came and stole their light.
Here is Hurðaskellir, ready to slam a door.
Here, you can see Stekkjastaur, walking on his two wooden sticks.

And finally, here is the whole family. On the right, you can see the Christmas Cat, and on the left, you can see Grýla and Leppalúði (the parents).

So that is it for the Icelandic Santa Clauses, and please remember, that they are every child's best friends now. They have changed their behaviour drastically :)

Miss Diorista

P.S. All pictures are from, except for the family one, which is from


  1. Oh my goodness, I love this, thank you so much for posting! I had never heard of Icelandic Christmas traditions before, this sounds so charming! They sound like the 7 dwarves, only really naughty!


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