Making a List of Who is Naughty, Nice, and Who Will Be Eaten


Not content with just one Santa Claus, Iceland has thirteen of them. Known as “Jolasveinar” or “Yule Lads,” they are the sons of the trolls Gryla and Leppaludi, who would eat children who have been naughty throughout the year. Originally the Jolasveinar were much like their parents, but they mellowed with the years, and instead of eating naughty children, they would simply ruin Christmas for them by stealing food, killing cows, taking presents, etc.

Each of the Jolasveinar arrives and departs on specific dates. During this time they each have a mission, such as Bjúgnakrækir, who spends December 20 through January 2 hiding in rafters, looking for sausages that he can swipe, or Stekkjarstaur, who harasses sheep from December 12 through December 25.

There is some debate about just how many Jolasveinar there are, with numbers ranging from 10 to 15. Most agree on 13. The ones most commonly recognized are:

Icelandic nameEnglish translationDescriptionArrivalDeparture
StekkjarstaurSheep-Cote ClodHarasses sheep, but is impaired by his stiff peg-legs.12 December25 December
GiljagaurGully GawkHides in gullies, waiting for an opportunity to sneak into the cowshed and steal milk.13 December26 December
StúfurStubbyAbnormally short. Steals pans to eat the crust left on them.14 December27 December
ÞvörusleikirSpoon-LickerSteals and licks wooden spoons. Is extremely thin due to malnutrition.15 December28 December
PottaskefillPot-ScraperSteals leftovers from pots.16 December29 December
AskasleikirBowl-LickerHides 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.17 December30 December
HurðaskellirDoor-SlammerLikes to slam doors, especially during the night, waking people up.18 December31 December
SkyrgámurSkyr-GobblerHas a great affinity for skyr (similar to yogurt).19 December1 January
BjúgnakrækirSausage-SwiperHides in the rafters and snatches sausages that are being smoked.20 December2 January
GluggagægirWindow-PeeperA snoop who looks through windows in search of things to steal.21 December3 January
GáttaþefurDoorway-SnifferHas an abnormally large nose and an acute sense of smell which he uses to locate leaf bread (laufabrauð).22 December4 January
KetkrókurMeat-HookUses a hook to steal meat.23 December5 January
KertasníkirCandle-StealerFollows children in order to steal their candles (which were once made of tallow and thus edible).24 December6 January


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