The Yule Lads are occasionally depicted as wearing the costume traditionally worn by Santa Claus, but are otherwise generally shown wearing late medieval style Icelandic clothing. They are often depicted with the Yule Cat, a beast that, according to folklore, eats children that don't receive new clothes in time for Christmas.
The Yule Lads were originally portrayed as mischievous, and even criminal, pranksters that would steal from, or in other way harass the population in rural areas. In 1932 the poem "Jólasveinarnir" was published as a part of the popular poetry book "Jólin Koma" ("Christmas Arrives") by Icelandic poet Jóhannes úr Kötlum. The poem reintroduced Icelandic society to Icelandic Yuletide folklore and established what is now considered the 'official' thirteen Yule Lads, their personalities and connection to other folkloric characters. In modern times the Yule Lads have been depicted as taking on a more benevolent role comparable to Santa Claus and other related figures and putting small gifts (or potatoes if the child has misbehaved) into shoes placed by children into their windows the last thirteen nights before Christmas Eve.
List of Yule Lads
The Yule lads are said to "come to town" during the last 13 nights before Christmas, each staying for two weeks before departing. Below are the 'official' thirteen Yule Lads in the order they arrive (and depart).
|Icelandic Name||English translation||Description||Arrival||Departure|
|Stekkjastaur||Sheep-Cote Clod||Harasses sheep, but is impaired by his stiff peg-legs.||December 12||December 25|
|Giljagaur||Gully Gawk||Hides in gullies, waiting for an opportunity to sneak into the cowshed and steal milk.||December 13||December 26|
|Stúfur||Stubby||Abnormally short. Steals pans to eat the crust left on them.||December 14||December 27|
|Þvörusleikir||Spoon-Licker||Steals Þvörur (a type of a wooden spoon with a long handle - I. þvara) to lick. Is extremely thin due to malnutrition.||December 15||December 28|
|Pottaskefill||Pot-Scraper||Steals leftovers from pots.||December 16||December 29|
|Askasleikir||Bowl-Licker||Hides under beds waiting for someone to put down their 'askur' (a type of bowl with a lid used instead of dishes), which he then steals.||December 17||December 30|
|Hurðaskellir||Door-Slammer||Likes to slam doors, especially during the night.||December 18||December 31|
|Skyrgámur||Skyr-Gobbler||A Yule Lad with an affinity for skyr.||December 19||January 1|
|Bjúgnakrækir||Sausage-Swiper||Would hide in the rafters and snatch sausages that were being smoked.||December 20||January 2|
|Gluggagægir||Window-Peeper||A voyeur who would look through windows in search of things to steal.||December 21||January 3|
|Gáttaþefur||Doorway-Sniffer||Has an abnormally large nose and an acute sense of smell which he uses to locate laufabrauð.||December 22||January 4|
|Ketkrókur||Meat-Hook||Uses a hook to steal meat.||December 23||January 5|
|Kertasníkir||Candle-Stealer||Follows children in order to steal their candles (which in those days was made of tallow and thus edible).||December 24||January 6|