The story of Yule lads, as any other Christmas story, is interesting and has a legend attached to it. Naughty and mischievous creatures from Iceland, they had a bad reputation for harassing the Icelandic farmers and taking away children in sacks. Thirteen in numbers, they used to play pranks on children, causing trouble for weeks for the households. They were elves whose images were used by parents to scare their naughty and mischievous children. However, as time and centuries passed, they decided to transform themselves into good Samaritans, by idolising friendly foreign figures. They now visit the houses in Iceland on the nights prior to Christmas, and delight the good mannered children by presenting gifts to them. Adapting the costumes of Santa Clause, they have also transformed themselves into funny creatures who possess the character and mind of kids. Read on to know more about the evil-turned-good Yule lads, their story and tradition.
The Story Of Yule Lads
The story of Yule lads can be dated back to 16th century Iceland when they were born as the children of Gryla, a fearful lady, who was notorious for taking away naughty children and Leppaluoi, a super natural being, who lives in mountains. As per the folk lore, Yule lads are 13 in number and put naughty and wayward kids into sacks. They are often accompanied by Yule cat, an outsized cat, who chases and eats kids who get new clothes for Christmas. Yule lads are mischievous and naughty pranksters who used to annoy the farmers and steal from their houses. Each one of them has a description attached to their name, based on the type of annoying activities in which they indulge.
Modern Yule Lads
In contemporary age, the Yule lads have transformed themselves into modern Icelandic adaptation of Santa Clause. They present gifts to good children on the nights before Christmas. In some places, they are depicted as wearing the same costumes worn by Santa Claus, while in other they wear late medieval style Icelandic clothing.
Yule Lads' Visit
By 20th century, Yule lads became benevolent which is explicit in their travel. From the mountains where they live, they head towards the houses in Iceland on the morning of December 12. Their journey is in such a way that they travel one lad a day, which continues for 13 days leading to Christmas. Each of them stays away for two weeks, strictly as per schedule. They start their return journey on the day of Christmas with all of them heading back one-by-one in the same way they came. The last brother departs on the twelfth night after Christmas. During their stay, they delight the children by gifting them with presents. Good and obedient children, who leave their shoes on their windows at night, find a small gift in the morning while the bad ones get an old potato instead. Thus, good Icelandic kids are gifted 13 presents even before Christmas.
The story of Yule lads is interesting. Their transformation from mean characters to happy and sharing creatures is as sweet as it is inspiring.