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Merry Christmas – But Watch Out for Grýla!

Christmas in Iceland wouldn’t be the same without two enormous, terrible trolls, Grýla and Leppalúði. Grýla is the mother of Iceland’s 13 Yule Lads, and Leppalúði is her third husband. They live in their cave in the Dimmuborgir lava fields in North Iceland. Leppalúði is lazy and doesn’t like leaving their cave. When it comes to Grýla, on the other hand, it is a different story…

christmas in iceland

Hungry for disobedient children

Grýla has an appetite for children, and she will gladly leave her cave in search of naughty kids to eat. In some stories, she is described as a beggar who asks parents for their misbehaving children, who she then takes with her in a big sack and cooks in a huge cauldron. Luckily, it is possible to chase her away or give her some leftovers instead. In other stories, she is even more evil and actively hunts for children for using them as the main ingredient in her favourite dish, kids’ stew. So, make sure you don’t let Grýla in this Christmas!

Icelandic Christmas Cat
The Christmas Cat

The Christmas Cat is Grýla & Leppalúði’s pet

The Icelandic Christmas Cat, Yule Cat, or Jólakötturinn, is probably Iceland’s most famous cat. As legend goes, she eats everyone who doesn’t have new clothes to wear for Christmas, so it might be a good idea to go Christmas shopping soon… Some people say that the Christmas Cat just eats the Christmas dinner of those without new clothes for Christmas, so that’s not so bad – all things considered.

Illustrations by Elín Elísabet Einarsdóttir

The Yule Lads

The Icelandic Yule Lads are a group of 13 mischievous trolls who start arriving in town, one per night, from December 12th until Christmas Eve. In the Iceland of yore, they were an incredible nuisance and brought grief to the general populace, whereas today they’ve morphed into kinder, gentler Yule Lads who bring gifts for kiddies who have been good. Read more about the Yule Lads here.

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