Unlike the rather syrupy creation of Father Christmas which we now have in the West, Icelanders have a rather more rounded set of characters to accompany their Christmas celebrations. These spirited creations are called the Yule Lads, thirteen mischievous troll children, who, like a dark version of Snow White’s seven dwarves, each have a different attribute and name to accompany them. The most comedic of these could translate as something like Sausage-Swiper, but a close-second would have to be Doorway-Sniffer, whilst the eeriest of all, is Window-Peeper.
In the thirteen days preceding Christmas, children leave their shoes out and receive an offering of some sort from each of the different Yule Lads. Well-behaved children receive a present, but those who’ve misbehaved get a rotten potato.
Though sadly now being fast eroded to something more resembling the red and white Santa figure used elsewhere, traditionally, they wore simple browns and greys. Their home is said to be Dimmuborgir near Lake Mývatn, and over the Christmas period, children can go and visit them there or take a dip with them at Mývatn Nature Baths.
In addition to the Yule Lads, their mother (a well-known child-eating troll named Grýla) has a pet cat, which is said to prowl around eating people who don´t receive a new piece of clothing for Christmas.
A video of the Yule Lads at Dimmuborgir
Björk´s song about the Yule Cat
There are two routes to Lake Mývatn from Húsavík. Taking the road south, the quickest option is to turn left on road 87. However, a small portion of the road is still gravel, so take the longer route via Laugar if you don´t have suitable insurance. When you reach the junction in front of the lake, turn left and follow the lake around. Take a left after the supermarket to get to the Nature Baths, or continue round to reach Dimmuborgir.
View route map from Húsavík