In Iceland, children don’t spend the holiday season in wait of Santa Claus’ arrival. Instead, they leave shoes on their windowsills in anticipation of thirteen Yule Lads, traditional figures from Icelandic folklore who may either leave gifts for children, or rotting potatoes. Like Santa, the Yule Lads’ offerings depend on whether a child has been good or bad throughout the previous year, but their visits extend over thirteen nights, with each one arriving on a particular evening from Dec. 12 to 24. After their stays, the last of the Yule Lads leaves the household on Jan. 6.
Although sometimes depicted wearing traditional or late medieval Icelandic garb, Yule Lads are most often seen wearing attire similar to that of Santa Claus. Like many wintertime folk figures in Europe, past interpretations of the Lads represented them as somewhat more sinister in nature, but today, they’re characterized as a mischievous – but ultimately benign – presence.
Photo: Nora Morgan via Flickr