CHRISTMAS IN ICELAND
The Christmas season begins 13 days before Christmas Day. According to a 13th century legend,
two ogres lived in the mountains. The woman's name was Gryla and her husband's name was
Leppalothi. Leppalothi was bed ridden and Gryla went from house to house begging food.
At Christmas time, she stole children that had been bad during the past year. In 1746
the king of Iceland forbade the telling of this folk tale. From then on, the children
(Jolasveinar) of the two ogres became associated with the Christmas season.
The 13 Jolasveinar live in the mountains and are dressed in red or in native Icelandic costume.
Beginning on December 13th, the Jolasveinar start to come into towns and villages,
one Jolasveinar a day. Originally the Jolasveinar would play tricks on the people.
They were responsible for stealing things, playing tricks and begging food, candles
and other things. Today they are responsible for giving gifts. For 13 days, one of
these goblins or elves will leave a gift in the children's shoes, which are placed
on the windowsill if the child has been good. If the children have been bad they leave
a potato or other reminder that gifts are for good children. The Jolasveinar start
returning to the mountains on Christmas Day, one a day until, the last one departs on January 6th.
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