Yule Lads or 'Yulemen' are characters that were adopted from Icelandic folklore and traditions. These figures are the Icelandic versions of Santa Claus. Read on to find out more!

Yule Lads

Yule Lads or 'Yulemen' are ancient Christmas characters who represent Santa Claus and are the traditional gift-bringers of Iceland. The Yule Lads were believed to be the sons of trolls who lived in the mountains according to Icelandic folklore and first appeared in the 17th century. There are 13 Yule Lads in total whose names reflect their actions. These characters were initially portrayed as pranksters, dressed in rags, who terrified children and harassed Icelandic natives during the Christmas season. As the years passed, the Yule Lads transformed into Santa Clauses and were portrayed as gift-givers. Despite turning into gift-givers, the Yule lads retained their mischievous nature. According to Icelandic traditions, Yule Lads descended from the mountains, to visit the people of Iceland and offered various gifts to little children from 12th to 24th December; a tradition followed even today. Christmas celebrations in Iceland last for a period of 26 days. Read this article to learn more about the Yule Lads of Iceland.

Icelandic Santa Claus
According to Icelandic legends, Yule Lads or 'Yulemen' are characters associated with Christmas. These characters are now considered as the Icelandic versions of Santa Claus. Over the years, the numbers of Yule Lads have increased to 13 from a mere 1. The Yule Lads are not entirely similar to Santa Claus. Their actual purpose, according to the Icelandic folklore, was to evoke fear in the hearts of little children. These are monstrous characters, unlike the popular Santa Claus, and descended from trolls. Yule Lads are the sons of two terrifyingly hideous ogres in Iceland, known as Gryla and Leppaluoi. Parents used to frighten their misbehaving children by reminding them about the Yule Lads. From 1746 onwards, a public decree forbade parents to scare their children with the story of the 'Yule Lads'. As the years passed, the Yule Lads stopped threatening children. Then, it was only in the twentieth century when the Yule Lads began to transform into the modern Santa Clauses, in terms of their form and personality. They are now depicted as men wearing red garments, just like Santa Claus, during the festive season. Soon enough, the Yule Lads also developed a liking towards children and began to leave presents for them instead of taunting and haunting them.

Even though the present-day Yule Lads have aped the appearance of their foreign counterparts, these Icelandic figures have retained their traditional characteristics, names and even their place of residence. They still continue to wander in a group of 13, unlike most other contemporary gift-bringers. Several Icelandic fairytales and stories have stated different names for the Yule Lads, which has resulted in several discrepancies among Icelandic people.

Names Of The Yule Lads
Johannes ur Kotlum, an Icelandic author, wrote a poem about the Yule Lads, which appeared in the popular book called 'Jolin koma', or 'Christmas is Coming', in 1932. This was the first publication that introduced the names of the 13 Yule Lads. The current names of Yule Lads are based on the 13 names mentioned in the poem. The names of the 13 Yule Lads are - Sheep-Cote Clod, Gully Gawk, Stubby, Spoon Licker, Pot Scraper, Bowl Licker, Door Slammer, Skyr Gobbler, Sausage Swiper, Window Peeper, Door Sniffer, Meat Hook and Candle Beggar.

Icelandic Christmas Traditions
The Icelandic Christmas season begins from 12th of December with the arrival of Yule Lads from the mountains and the celebrations continue for 26 days thereafter. Families visit one another and enjoy feasts till January 6th. Every year, the Yule Lads are invited to the National Museum of Iceland for visits until Christmas Day. When they first appeared in 1988, they were dressed in traditional rag outfits. Later, the National Museum and Icelandic designers recreated Santa's red attire with a native tweak, which the Yule Lads adopted and wear till date. The Yule Lads, according to tradition, steal from the museum to reflect their mischievous characters from the popular Yule Lads folklore.

Traditionally, Icelandic children usually place their shoes on the windowsills every night from the 12th to 24th of December, hoping to wake up the following morning with a small gift. On each of those 13 nights, one of the 13 Yule Lads appear and leave presents for the children. The youngsters have the advantage of receiving 13 presents before Christmas, although, naughty children are left with potatoes instead of beautiful gifts. Today, one can witness the Yule Lads playing with Icelandic children in malls and city centers during the holiday season.

Yule Lads are pre-Christian characters who transformed into the modern gift-bringers of Iceland. These characters were mischievous beings who later, mirrored Santa Claus and began to gift children rather than annoy them. They are the official Santa Clauses of Iceland and are eagerly anticipated upon by children on Christmas every year.