Thursday, 24 December 2015

Kertasníkir - Icelandic Yule Lads (December 24th)

Last but not least! Kertasníkir (Candle Beggar) arrives just in time for Christmas celebrations, on December 24. Be careful: this Lad is perhaps one of the wickedest of the gang.

What Kertasníkir does is stealing candles. He does it not only because he finds their glow attractive, but also because in the past candles were obtained from animal fat thus they were very appetizing. Maybe Kertasníkir doesn’t eat candles anymore, but he still likes to steal them when he comes to town.
Kertasníkir - Icelandic Yule Lads (December 24th)

This may appear like a frivolous kind of prank to our contemporary civilized ways, but in the old days candles were in many cases the only source of lighting available. In Iceland, especially in the darkest days of the cold season, darkness was a danger and an enemy that one couldn’t underestimate. A candle could indeed make a difference in more than a few cases. Also, let’s not forget darkness is one of the classic fears of humans by instinct. Being deprived of light has always been for human beings quite a serious matter.


Þrettándi var Kertasníkir,
- þá var tíðin köld,
ef ekki kom hann síðastur
á aðfangadagskvöld.

Hann elti litlu börnin,
sem brostu, glöð og fín,
og trítluðu um bæinn
með tólgarkertin sín.


Thirteenth was Candle Beggar,
- The weather would be cold,
If he was not the last one
On the day of Yule Eve.

He followed the little children,
Who smiled, happy and gay,
And tripped around the house
With their candles.

And now… That’s all, folks! We had a good time talking about the Yule Lads, these unrepentant rascals! I am disappointed that they forgot to leave anything for us during these thirteen days.

I was honestly looking forward to receive a good amount of potatoes, the present they , since I’ve been so bad in the course of year 2010 — I was hoping I could be given enough potatoes to mash or fry them for Christmas, that is. Maybe it wasn’t enough. Next year I’ll do my worst, I promise.

Berglind, Iceland24
December 2015

Wednesday, 23 December 2015

Ketkrókur - Icelandic Yule Lads (December 23rd)

Another Yule Lad, another story of gluttony. Oh boy, aren’t these dudes a little repetitive? This time is Ketkrókur’s (Meat Hook) turn. He comes down from the mountains on December 23, Saint Thorlak’s Day.

Ketkrókur is cunning and resourceful, even for the Lads’ already high standards of cunning and resourcefulness. What Ketkrókur does better than any other is “fishing” the traditional smoked lamb with a hooked pole.
Ketkrókur - Icelandic Yule Lads (December 23rd)

He's the tallest of the brothers. That cross of troll, elf and human ancestry gave him a very long and rather stiff pair of legs. Legend says he walks as though they were made of wood, and he has to use a long walking stick to be able to walk properly.

His favorite strategy consists in lowering his hook through the kitchen chimney. He can steal heaps of this Icelandic delicacy using this peculiar technique. If you have no chimney is your festive dinner safe then, you’ll ask? I don’t honestly know.


Ketkrókur, sá tólfti,
kunni á ýmsu lag.
-Hann þrammaði í sveitina
á Þorláksmessudag.

Hann krækti sér í tutlu,
þegar kostur var á.
En stundum reyndist stuttur
stauturinn hans þá.


Meat Hooker, the twelfth one,
Knew a thing or two.
-He marched into the country
On St. Thorlak's Day.

He hooked a bit of meat
Whenever he could.
But often a little short
was at times his staff.

Berglind, Iceland24
December 2015

Tuesday, 22 December 2015

Gáttaþefur - Icelandic Yule Lads (December 22nd)

Gáttaþefur (Door Sniffer) is a big-nosed fellow that, instead of developing a nose complex and turning to rhinoplasty, used his protuberance to his own advantage.

Gáttaþefur ‘s nose not only is noticeable enough to make any Cirano look like a mere amateur, but it is also extremely sensitive: this dude can smell Christmas delicacies as accurately as a truffle hog. But Gáttaþefur doesn’t care much for truffles. He prefers laufabrauð (the traditional Icelandic bread that is eaten during the Christmas period), cookies and cakes. And of course when he finds something edible he likes, he doesn’t content himself with the smell…

Gáttaþefur - Icelandic Yule Lads (December 22nd)

Gáttaþefur will be around sniffing on the night of December 22. Be sure to lock all your cookies in a safe if you don’t intend to eat them all before this darling arrives.


Ellefti var Gáttaþefur,
- aldrei fékk sá kvef,
og hafði þó svo hlálegt
og heljarstórt nef.

Hann ilm af laufabrauði
upp á heiðar fann,
og léttur, eins og reykur,
á lyktina rann.


Eleventh was Doorway Sniffer
- Who never had a cold,
Even though he had a funny
And enormous nose.

The scent of Leaf Bread
He smelled in the hills,
And lightly, like the smoke,
He followed that scent.

Berglind, Iceland24
December 2015

Monday, 21 December 2015

Gluggagægir - Icelandic Yule Lads (December 21st)

Gluggagægir (Window Peeper) is the tenth Yule Lad in the list. He’s one of my faves too. Maybe he actually is the Lad I like the most.

The Window Peeper is a classic figure in literature, music and cinema. If you don’t like the classic window peeper’s approach, just think about James Stewart in Rear Window, but reversed.

There are many elements at play when this kind of characters are involved so I can safely say Gluggagægir is the Lad with more potential: with a little of invention you could have a whole series of Christmas thrillers or horrors made after him.

Gluggagægir - Icelandic Yule Lads (December 21st)

Some consider Gluggagægir just a very nosy guy, but completely harmless – although he does like to steal when something he sees arouses his fancy. Some others prefer to add a sinister aura to his curiosity, describing him as a hardcore voyeur…

Whatever the truth, you are now aware of his habit of peeping through windows at night. So, unless you’re OK with it, maybe you’ll feel more comfortable drawing your curtains on December 21.

So, this guy may be looking in your window between Dec 21 and Jan 3, so give him a friendly wave and wish him Gleðileg Jól (Happy Holidays)


Tíundi var Gluggagægir,
grályndur mann,
sem laumaðist á skjáinn
og leit inn um hann.

Ef eitthvað var þar inni
álitlegt að sjá,
hann oftast nær seinna
í það reyndi að ná.


Tenth was Window Peeper
A grumpy lad,
Who sneaked to the window
And looked through it.

If anything was inside
Nice to look at,
He usually later
Tried to get that.

Berglind, Iceland24
December 2015

Sunday, 20 December 2015

Bjúgnakrækir - Icelandic Yule Lads (December 20th)

In contrast with Skyrgámur‘s habit of eating tons of healthy skyr, Bjúgnakrækir (Sausage Swiper), the Yule Lad arriving on the 20th night of December, prefers his snacks high in cholesterol. Nobody knows exactly what his preference is: rumors say he will ravenously eat all kinds of sausages, without any exception. His appetite can make him reckless sometimes.

Smoked sausages are a brilliant way to preserve meat in a place like Berk (or most of the North Atlantic Islands) where it may snow and hail and rain locusts (or whatever Hiccup dreams up in his snarkfest), but it rarely gets cold enough to freeze food. So smoking, pickling, drying, curing are all ways to keep food stashed through the winter.

Bjúgnakrækir - Icelandic Yule Lads (December 20th)

The rafters are an ideal place to store the lamb meat and fish meat sausages once they are prepared. Then the cook just snags down dinner from the ceiling and dumps it in a pot to boil. Sometimes you have to climb a bit to get dinner. At the Haddock household it´s a good thing there is a tall chieftain and a willing Night Fury to help with this. And a few cleverly designed long hooks for those days when the chief dragon tamer/chef does not want dragon drool on the sausages.

Until December 20, of course. Then Bjúgnakrækir makes his way into the farms and the village, ready to snatch some sausages. It's a good thing he's an acrobat so he can climb WAAAY up into those rafters and reach for the prize. He just, unfortunately, is a leeetle bit afraid of heights. But singing usually helps him deal with the situation, and also keeps the watch dragon fast asleep.

So, if you are planning to make sausage stuffing or simply hot dogs between Dec 20 and Jan 2, keep 'em hidden. This guy's on the prowl!

Bjúgnakrækir - Icelandic Yule Lads (December 20th)

Luckily for this chap, there’s not much need for recklessness in recent times: in Reykjavík you can find near the harbor the famous Bæjarins beztu pylsur (Best hot dog in town in English) stand, described by many satisfied customers as one of the best in the world. I’m pretty sure Bjúgnakrækir knows very well and he visits the stand regularly during his annual excursions.


Níundi var Bjúgnakrækir,
brögðóttur og snar.
Hann hentist upp í rjáfrin
og hnuplaði þar.

Á eldhúsbita sat hann
í sóti og reyk
og át þar hangið bjúga,
sem engan sveik.


Ninth was Sausage Snatcher
Artful and quick.
He hied up to the rafters
And snatched a little there.

On a kitchen beam he sat
In smoke and soot
And ate a smoked sausage,
That was very good.

Berglind, Iceland24
December 2015

Saturday, 19 December 2015

Skyrgámur - Icelandic Yule Lads (December 19th)

This is the day for Skyrgámur, the Skyr Gobbler.

Skyr (or farköst) is a type of cheese, though it more resembles a very thick yogurt. The Greek yogurt that has become so popular lately resembles it, but not exactly. Skyr tastes tangy, thick and rich, yet it actually is low fat.

Like yogurt, you need to use a "starter" culture from a previous batch of skyr. Milk with all of the cream skimmed out is mixed with buttermilk, rennet and a bit of older skyr culture and brought to a boil. It is allowed to cool down slowly so the rennet can "work its magic." A curd and whey has been created. The mixture is strained through something like cheese cloth until all the whey has dripped out. (The whey is saved as a preservative for meats). The remaining "curds" are skyr.

Skyrgámur - Icelandic Yule Lads (December 19th)

Skyrgámur is not the brightest Yule Lad in the litter, and after a full year of doing other things (he is into collecting snow in the winter and dew drops in the summer and his collection keeps getting stolen by someone mysterious), he often forgets exactly how to do his job. Eat it, play with it, throw it at someone, decorate it? His Terrible Terror friend is just as forgetful but still 100% of a prankster. Deadly combination.

They call him stupid, but apart from his lack of temperance Skyrgámur is not that stupid. For those who are wondering, skyr is a low-fat and very high in proteins dairy product, similar to strained yogurt, but much healthier. Thanks to its components, skyr’s nutritional benefits are quite remarkable.

So if you don't want to share any of your cultural experiences with Skyrgámur, hide your yogurt, skyr, buttermilk, filmjölk, kefir and sour cream from sight between Dec 19 and Jan 1.


Skyrgámur, sá áttundi,
var skelfilegt naut.
Hann hlemminn o'n af sánum
með hnefanum braut.

Svo hámaði hann í sig
og yfir matnum gein,
unz stóð hann á blístri
og stundi og hrein.


Skyr Gobbler, the eighth one,
Was a terrible bull.
The lid off the skyr tub
With his fist he smashed.

Then he gobbled up
As much as he could,
Till he was close to bursting
And moaned and grunted.

Berglind, Iceland24
December 2015

Friday, 18 December 2015

Hurðaskellir - Icelandic Yule Lads (December 18th)

Hurðaskellir (Door Slammer) is a peculiar Yule Lad and much more of a prankster than most of his brothers. He doesn’t care much for food, but he’s got the obsessive addiction of door-slamming. No door is safe when this crazy rascal is around. The louder the noise, the better – and just to be sure, better repeating the trick more than once in a row: Hurðaskellir’s ego is quite troublesome.

We all know people with the annoying tendency of being very noisy when they close doors, but the problem with Hurðaskellir is that he likes to do that at night. I suggest that you don’t forget to lock any single door in your house, especially if you’re living with somebody with severe heart conditions…
Hurðaskellir - Icelandic Yule Lads (December 18th)

What's worse is that Hurðaskellir seems to have a fan club with a lot of children in it, because they just LOVE to slam doors and say they are imitating their favorite hero.

Hurðaskellir is going to harass your doors on 18 December.


Sjöundi var Hurðaskellir,
- sá var nokkuð klúr,
ef fólkið vildi í rökkrinu
fá sér væran dúr.

Hann var ekki sérlega
hnugginn yfir því,
þó harkalega marraði
hjörunum í.


Seventh was Door Slammer,
- He was a little brash.
When people in the dark
Wanted to nap.

He was not one bit
Sorry for that,
If loud, creaking noises
Came from the hinges.

Berglind, Iceland24
December 2015

Thursday, 17 December 2015

Askasleikir - Icelandic Yule Lads (December 17th)

Askasleikir (Bowl Licker) is the 6th in the Yule Lads gang to visit during the Christmas period. He arrives on the 17th of December. I don’t want to make it sound like I am partial - because in fact I am not - but I think Askasleikir is very sly. At least, more than the majority of his brothers.

In the old times, especially in farmhouses, Icelanders used to eat from lidded bowls sitting on their beds. The lidded bowls prevented the food from getting cold and were usually placed on the floor or under the bed in between bites.
Askasleikir - Icelandic Yule Lads (December 17th)
Askasleikir specialized in hiding under furniture waiting for these moments and refined his art over the years. When something edible is placed on the floor, he stretches his arms and steals it.

I suspect it may be this gentleman’s fault that children are so afraid of monsters hiding under the bed at night.


Sá sjötti, Askasleikir,
var alveg dæmalaus.
-Hann fram undan rúmunum
rak sinn ljóta haus.

Þegar fólkið setti askana
fyrir kött og hund,
hann slunginn var að ná þeim
og sleikja á ýmsa lund.


The sixth, Bowl Licker,
Was without a peer.
-From under the beds, he
Pushed his ugly head.

When the bowls were placed
In front of cat and dog,
He cunningly snatched them
And licked till he was full.

Berglind, Iceland24
December 2015

Wednesday, 16 December 2015

Pottaskefill - Icelandic Yule Lads (December 16th)

It's Pottaskefill, the pot licker. Most of us, admit it, are not fond of leftovers (spam hash, anybody?). This Yule Lad lives for them! He patiently waits until households are finished with their cooking. Then he sneaks in and demolishes the leftovers in the pot with lightning speed.

His job is easy to do with the normal Viking household, but the Vikings on Berk are quite well grown, and the chances of leftovers are not great.

Pottaskefill - Icelandic Yule Lads (December 16th)

But Pottaskefill has picked up a few tricks over the years to guarantee he gets leftovers. Vikings had a notorious love of seasoning, gaining new tastes as they traveled on trading missions and their raid- oops, I mean, acquiring new possessions without paying for them. A wealthier household might have spices such as cumin, pepper, saffron, ginger, cardamom, cloves, nutmeg, mace, cinnamon, anise-seed, and bay leaves. In fact, Scandinavia is one of the few regions outside of South Asia that uses cardamom as a staple spice.

Anyway, like a Viking trader, Pottaskefill has collected his own formidable armada of seasonings from his visits. He has strung them onto a bandolier like vest that he wears when he visits Berk. And he uses them liberally and inappropriately (lots of salt in the deserts, honey and cinnamon in the meat soup, etc.). And lots and lots and lots of hot peppers.

Top it off with a few extra logs to insure the fire will burn the food, and Pottaskefill has guaranteed leftovers! It's a good thing he has developed a cast iron stomach over the years. Some of the other Yule Lads and Grýla have noticed, actually, that he no longer can eat food if it tastes good.


Sá fimmti, Pottaskefill,
var skrítið kuldastrá.
- Þegar börnin fengu skófir
hann barð dyrnar á.

Þau ruku' upp, til að gá að
hvort gestur væri á ferð.
Þá flýtti 'ann sér að pottinum
og fékk sér góðan verð.


The fifth, Pot Licker,
Was a weird cool lad.
As the children received scrapings,
He knocked at the door.

They rushed off to see
If a guest was dropping in.
Then he hurried to the pot,
And had a filling meal.

Berglind, Iceland24
December 2015

Tuesday, 15 December 2015

Þvörusleikir - Icelandic Yule Lads (December 15th)

Þvörusleikir, it loosely means "Spoon Licker," but it really means "Pot Scraper Licker."

Modern depictions of this Yule Lad show him as a very skinny guy licking a wooden spoon, but actually the spoon was not a spoon. It was a Viking age (and later) kitchen tool called a "Pot Scraper." This was a very long and skinny kitchen tool with a tip that was more like a very small, flat and narrow spatula rather than a spoon. It was a "þvera", pot scraper.

This goes back to the days when you did not waste food. So when you made soups and stews and porridge in Viking Days, you always needed to have them warm and ready to serve. This was specially so in the Mead Hall when you needed to have some warming food always on hand for people who needed it, whether it was a rescue crew going out on a mission or a traveler who stumbled into town and needed some hot, good food to warm up after a long journey. Hospitality to strangers was a point of pride for Vikings, so that kettle of hot, freshened soup or stew or gruel was vital.
Þvörusleikir - Icelandic Yule Lads (December 15th)

Þvörusleikir loves to steal the Þvera pot scraper from the Mead Hall and all the various households each night. He sticks each household Þvera in his mouth and licks it, pulling out the flavors of the stew or porridge.

It's not that efficient, and the other Yule Lads point this out often to Þvörusleikir. There just is not that much nutrition you can get out of licking a pot scraper or spoon or ladle. You'd do better to just pony up and buy a tasty, nutritious bowl of soup or stew.

But Þvörusleikir has his pride. He feels the wood of the þvera and the ingredients soaking into it somehow give it a real gourmet status. When you lick the þvera you bring out all the hidden flavors and have a true Michelin 4 star experience in gourmet spoon licking.

So, there's no use for it. Þvörusleikir lives on licking each household´s scraper and he is one skinny dude since there really is not a whole of nutrition coating the average Þvera or spoon or ladle.

Well, that's what happens on between Dec. 15 and Dec 28. Hang onto your ladles and wooden kitchen spoons because they are a hot commodity when Þvörusleikir is on the prowl!


Sá fjórði, Þvörusleikir,
var svakalega mjór.
Og ósköp varð hann glaður,
þegar eldabuskan fór.

Þá þaut hann eins og elding
og þvöruna greip,
og hélt með báðum höndum,
því hún var stundum sleip.


The fourth, Pot-Scraper Licker,
Was a very skinny lad.
And he was very happy,
When the cook went away.

He ran like lightning
And grabbed the pot-scraper,
Held it fast with both hands,
As it was sometimes slippery.

Berglind, Iceland24
December 2015

Sunday, 13 December 2015

Stúfur - Icelandic Yule Lads (December 14th)

This is the favorite Yule Lad of most Icelanders.. Stúfur! The name means Shorty in Icelandic.

Stúfur is the Hiccup of the Yule Lads, the acknowledged runt of the litter. He is the smallest and stubbiest of the Yule Lads in form. However, his troll and elf ancestry have also made him very strong. He may be small and not too powerful in appearance but, in reality, he can really beat up anyone he chooses. He can even knock out a Monstrous Nightmare better than Stoick can. In his sleep while chewing gum.

Stúfur - Icelandic Yule Lads (December 14th)

But the great irony is that the miniature warrior... that tiny Beowulf of a Yule Lad... is on a great quest to steal... uh... grease spattered frying pans.

It certainly is a weird hobby. Stúfur has a harder journey than the other Yule Lads. His little legs have to work harder. He often is covered by snow as he journeys to the villages and has to use a telescope poked up through the snow so he knows where is going. And he has to beat up all the dragons and Vikings he meets along the way.

And the reason Stúfur beats the odds and steals those frying pans? Well, it is because he likes to lick off the grease and drippings that are left in the frying pan. It's rather humbling when you think about it... all that tough journeying and fighting to lick off a bit of bacon fat?

There is a parable in there for sure. But it's kind of a weird one. Anyway, if you fry up anything on Dec. 14 and through Dec. 27, just don't be surprised if your frying pan disappears moments after you set it aside. It's Stúfur style recycling!


Stúfur hét sá þriðji,
stubburinn sá.
Hann krækti sér í pönnu,
þegar kostur var á.

Hann hljóp með hana í
burtuog hirti agnirnar,
sem stundum brunnu fastar
við barminn hér og þar.


Itty Bitty was the third,
That short fellow.
He borrowed a pan,
When he could do so.

He ran away with it
And picked and ate the food-bits
That sometimes stick
To a pan here and there.

Berglind, Iceland24
December 2015

Giljagaur - Icelandic Yule Lads (December 13th)

Giljagaur arrives on Dec 13. His name means "Gully Oaf." He is usually portrayed with gray hair and wearing very plain colored clothes. As his name implies, he hides in the gullies and ditches and canyons near farmsteads. Then, after the cows have been milked, he sneaks into the barn and skims the rich cream from the top of the milk buckets. He hides again and, after morning milking, sneaks back for another creamy snack.

Sometimes his job is very easy to do, especially if you have young dairymaids and handsome warriors and lots of Viking hormones on hand. Giljagaur waits till the flirting gets started, the young people get distracted, and then he runs in and steals the cream.
Giljagaur - Icelandic Yule Lads (December 13th)
He also has a fondness for cows, too, and he speaks bovinese, so he and Búkolla here are swapping some stories. Icelandic cows are a special breed, unchanged since the Vikings brought them to the island. They are quite small and can live in mountainous areas, but they are sweet natured and provide a lot of good quality milk. They also come in an amazing variety of colors, and some even have brindle stripes!

Vikings rarely drank milk. They used it for baking and to make other products that kept well in storage, like cheese, sour milk (tastes like buttermilk) and a thick low-fat curd called "skyr." They also used the whey from cheesemaking as a way to preserve meat products, a tradition that continues to this day in Iceland. The resulting "pickled" meats were an unpleasant grey in color, but they kept well, tasted quite all right, and were nutritious. The whey itself actually has a taste similar to white wine.

The people of Berk managed to always keep a few cows on hand, but they had to hide them in caves and canyons and then make a difficult trek twice a day to milk them. Now, the dragons know to leave cows alone (a few dragons even like cheese as a treat), so once again Giljagaur can raid the stables.

So, keep your fresh cream locked away and make sure that the dairy personnel who work between Dec 13 and 26 are not the kind to be easily impressed by a well turned out pair of biceps.


Giljagaur var annar,
með gráa hausinn sinn.
- Hann skreið ofan úr gili
og skaust í fjósið inn.

Hann faldi sig í básunum
og froðunni stal,
meðan fjósakonan átti
við fjósamanninn tal.


Gully Imp was the second,
With his grey old head.
He crept down from the mountain,
and into the cow shed.

He hid in the stables
- And stole the froth,
While the milkmaid chatted
Up the stable boy.

Berglind, Iceland24
December 2015