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Invasion of the Yule Lads

First Yule Lad arrived in town yesterday morning. For those not in the know, Yule Lads are Iceland’s version of Santa Claus and are, I venture to say, infinitely more interesting than the tubby and insipid ho-ho-ho Coca Cola version. For starters there are 13 of them, each with his own definitive character … or should I say character defect, arriving one a day from now until Christmas Eve.

Yesterday’s Yule Lad was Stekkjastaur (English translation varies, YT prefers Sheep Worrier). This particular character liked to sneak into the sheep’s pens and suckle the ewes for their milk (one hopes he was merely hungry and not driven by any, ahem, inappropriate urges). His only problem was that he had club feet which made it difficult to get under them to begin suckling. (And you thought you had problems.)

Today’s was crafty old Giljagaur (Gully Imp), who used to come down and creep into the cow shed, stealing the milk from the milkmaid while she was being chatted up by the stable boy.

But all this was in bygone days, of course; modern urban Icelandic homes do not have sheep pens, to say nothing of cow sheds. Meaning that the Yule Lads have morphed into generous and benign creatures, bringing little gifts for kiddies, provided they’ve been good. The way it works is this: kids take their shoe and leave it near an open window and presto! come morning the said shoe will contain a small gift. Or, if the kiddies have been bad that day, a single, lonely potato.

Now, YT doesn’t have the problem any more of having to sneak into room at night to deposit gift in shoe. AAH got wise a couple of years ago, having managed to cling to the Yule-Lads-exist illusion longer than most. Reason? Well, fairly early on YT instigated a letter-writing tradition from the Yule Lads to AAH, meaning that occasionally a letter appeared in her shoe along with the day’s gift. Ok, I admit it, the letter was initially – but only initially – designed to shamelessly manipulate AAH into exhibiting parent-friendly behaviour, particularly if she wasn’t up to the task on her own. And, may I add, it worked like a charm and can only be recommended. The only problem was that AAH started demanding communiqués from the Yule Lads on a daily basis, writing back little notes that said things like “Dear sowanso, I’m so sorry I was naughty today, will you please bring me a present for my shoe and also will you send me a letter, please?” Very very sweet. Meaning that YT was duty bound to sit her butt down at the computer every night after AAH was in bed, to pound out messages from the Yule Lads, which would then be printed in Old English font for added effect. Which incidentally was precisely what allowed AAH to cling to the illusion for so long; after all, they had to be real because they wrote letters in Old English font.

AND NOW, WE HAVE WEATHER…

Today at noon, YT brazenly ignored the big flashing STORM WARNING signs broadcast by the weather office and headed out for a seaside stroll to the bakery. After all there is only so much oxygen-deprived stationary sitting that one body can take, to say nothing of daylight deprivation. So I get myself all windproofed-up and everything and off I go to the bakery, struggling against the gales and pulling my hood down across my face to avoid being hit by pellets of hail (youch!). It took me about half an hour to the bakery – twice as long as usual – but only about three minutes to return, as I flew back. Indeed, my sole required task was to navigate enough to avoid being thunked against the massive boulders that line the embankment. Fortunately I was successful and have lived to tell the tale.

Temps currently 2 degrees; wind 18-23 metres a second. Sunrise was at 11.14; sunset at 15.30.

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  • Charles Calthrop December 13, 2004, 6:13 pm

    At first I suspected you were making this up….I agree, much more interesting than Santa 🙂

    I always thought Bjork was a loaf short of a bakers dozen……

  • Alda December 13, 2004, 6:52 pm

    Nope, this is one of those numerous cases where real life surpasses fiction!
    Björk, well, she’s in my tribe so I gotta love ‘er. Plus how many famous pop stars can one run into at the West Reykjavík swimming pool on a regular basis? (Hm, come to think of it, I ran into Julia Stiles there this summer … but then she’s not a pop star). But you’re not alone, many feel as you do, or as the Germans like to put it, “she doesn’t have all her cups in the cupboard”… 🙂

  • Audur December 13, 2004, 10:11 pm

    Could you tell me what “a loaf short of a bakers dozen” means?

  • Alda December 13, 2004, 10:17 pm

    It means she’s missing some of her marbles… or as the Icelanders like to say, “ekki eins og fólk er flest…” 🙂 Or as the Mexicans like to say: She’s a-loco!

  • Anonymous December 14, 2004, 12:41 am

    And why would the Sheep Worrier be trying to suckle the ewes at this time of the year????? Icelandic ewes are bone dry at this time of the year since the lambs are born in the spring and weaned by autumn?? Poor chap would not have any luck as far as milk is conserned, but for other motives, well….

    The sheep farmer out in the sticks.

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