As Christmas Eve approaches at a terrifying speed...I asked my lovely friend Mia to share her slightly terrifying Christmas traditions all the way from Iceland...
Mia Olsen currently lives in Denmark, shares my passion for fabulous Scandi clobber... Vegetarian food and is amazeballs X
Christmas with Imaginary Friends
I come from a country that hardly anyone lives in, everyone in Iceland could move to Bristol and we’d still have room for guests! We got so lonely over there, we made up imaginary friends! Tales about elves and fairies called Huldufólk are still very popular and one Santa wasn’t enough so we had to have 13. Just so we can talk about something besides the weather!
My customs are often thought of as a novelty and some find them quirky. I find them normal and just a tad tedious. Who has to find those 13 gifts the Yule Lads bring? It sure isn’t their mother Grýla.
Grýla and her third husband Leppalúði, are the Yule Lads parents — the scariest ogres ever known. They aren’t really into the whole attachment parenting thing but she’s got the ability to find kids that have misbehaved during the year and then EATS them! Yeah, her favourite snack is a stew of naughty kids — legend has it she has an insatiable appetite! Charming and Christmassy right?
So it’s not surprising the Yule Lads turned out the way they did. The original stories will have you believe that they were a mischievous bunch that caused havoc when they came over, stealing food and spying on the kids so they could report back to dear mummy. So much so that there was a public decree in 1746 that banned parents from frightening their children with monsters and fiends like the Yule Lads. Since then they’ve started to behave a little better and have now started to look like the regular Santa Clause.
They still carry their characteristic names like Sheep-Cote Clod, Window Peeper and Door Sniffer (I’m not making this up!). They are much nicer to the children now and to make up for the centuries long tyranny, have started to put little gifts in their shoes in stead of stealing and pestering. Children now put their — often muddy — shoes on the windowsill and wait for little tokens, to ease the suspense for Christmas Eve.
The nights are long up north so we moved the whole celebration of Christmas to Christmas Eve, but we do everything somewhat in reverse and only start the festivities when the clocks strike 18. By then everyone has had a christmas bath — thankfully we have unlimited access to warm water and don’t have to rely on boilers! We dress up in at least one item of new clothing or Grýla’s pet the Yule Cat comes by and eats you!
Then we hurriedly eat the food we’ve spent the whole day preparing, hoping the electricity doesn’t go out as every single stove in Iceland is turned on at that exact moment. The biggest difference I find is the desert. We don’t have anything close to a Christmas pudding, I grew up with canned fruit cocktail, ice cream and a slap of whipped cream! A national favourite!
After eating all the food we open the presents, my personal favourite part of the day! By late evening you can usually find us curled up on the sofa reading the many books normally found under our own carefully picked and cut tree! Books are such a popular item during the holidays it’s called “Jólabókaflóð” or Christmas Book Flood. New books are almost only published during this season.
Eat or be eaten seems to the common theme with Icelandic Christmas traditions. I know I like to play it safe and always make sure we all get something new!