The Icelandic Yule Lads live at Dimmuborgir in North-Iceland!

Here in Iceland we have 13 Yule Lads, which are quite different from Santa Claus. There are records of names of more than 70 Yule Lads, but somehow these 13 Yule Lads have stayed with us until the modern times.

The Yule Lads live in Iceland, way up north in Mývatn at Dimmuborgir - Dark Fortress, and there you can find their cave hidden away - and you might even stumble upon it during your visit to Dimmuborgir

The Icelandic Yule Lads live at Dimmuborgir in North-Iceland!

Dimmuborgir - the Dark Fortress at Mývatn is a true wonder of nature. This amazing area consists of towering lava rock formations which make you feel like you stepped into another world - a world of fairy-tales and Yule Lads :)

The formation of these extraordinary lava cliffs and pillars is caused by lava ponds, i.e. hot lava streamed over these ponds trapping the water underneath the lava. Steam issued through vent in the lava pools and formed these pillars, which then remained standing even after the crust around them had gone away. The rocks are brittle and fragile - and here is the playground of the Yule Lads - so be alert while visiting this area as you might run into them!

The Icelandic Yule Lads live at Dimmuborgir in North-Iceland!

You might also run into them when they want to take a bath as you can see on the photo above, which was shot at the Mývatn Nature baths - the Blue Lagoon of the North!

Our original Yule Lads were pranksters and all of them have their special name, which describes their mischievous conduct. Their names are:

Stekkjastaur- Sheep Cote Clod
Giljagaur - Gully Gawk
Stúfur - Stubby
Þvörusleikir - Spoon Licker
Pottaskefill - Pot Scraper
Askasleikir - Bowl Licker
Hurðaskellir - Door Slammer (he loves waking people up by slamming doors)
Skyrgámur - Skyr Gobbler
Bjúgnakrækir - Sausage Swiper
Gluggagægir - Window Peeper
Gáttaþefur - Doorway Sniffer
Ketkrókur - Meat Hook
Kertasníkir - Candle Beggar

By their names you can see that they are up to mischief ;) You can get a better description on them on the Yule Lads at Dimmuborgir website.

They aren't as bad as their parents, but they are quite ill-mannered and who wouldn't be after having been raised by the two terrible trolls, Grýla and Leppalúði!

The Icelandic Yule Lads live at Dimmuborgir in North-Iceland!

Last summer I visited Dimmuborgir twice and, after looking for it thoroughly, I stumbled upon their cave! 

The Yule Lads sleep in their cave during summer time and can rarely be seen walking around as they are resting. In November and December it is a different story, then there is a good chance of running into a mischievous Yule Lad. I visited their cave twice last summer and was lucky enough not to run into them in their cave. 

The Icelandic Yule Lads live at Dimmuborgir in North-Iceland!

In their strangely formed natural cave there are beds for each and every one of the Yule Lads with their personal belongings and it is fun poking around in there looking at all their stuff - as long as they don't come back to find you in their cave - poking around going through their stuff!!

The Icelandic Yule Lads live at Dimmuborgir in North-Iceland!

There is a kitchen in the cave and you can find the Yule Lads' laundry hanging up to dry, so it seems like they just popped out and could be back any minute now. 

The Icelandic Yule Lads live at Dimmuborgir in North-Iceland!

Thirteen days before Christmas the first Yule Lad comes to inhabited areas and then a new one arrives every day until the last one arrives on the 24th of December. We Icelanders celebrate Christmas on the evening of the 24th of December. 

It has been a tradition here in Iceland since 1950 for young kids to leave their best (or biggest) shoe on the windowsill in their bedroom, the first one 13 days before Christmas. The Yule Lad coming to "town" visits all the kids and leaves a small present for them in their shoe. But only if the kids have gone to sleep early and have not behaved badly.

Because, as one knows, the Yule Lads cannot leave you a present if you are awake ;) A kid who hasn't behaved well on that particular day will find a raw potato in the shoe! And I can tell you that the kids finding the raw potato in their shoe rarely show it to anybody as they are so ashamed.

The Icelandic Yule Lads live at Dimmuborgir in North-Iceland!

The parents of the Yule Lads are called Grýla and Leppalúði. They live in a big cave in Ludentaborgir, not far away from the cave of their offspring at Dimmuborgir.  I have not found that cave and am not eager to find that particular cave, to tell you the truth ;)

Grýla is a very bad and grim ogre, and she eats badly behaved children, she comes to pick them up, puts them in her sack and then cooks them in her cauldron. I remember how scared we Icelandic kids were of this terrible ogre, Grýla - and she still gives me the creeps!

The Icelandic Yule Lads live at Dimmuborgir in North-Iceland!

Grýla and Leppalúði own the Christmas Cat, which eats people who don't get any Christmas presents containing clothes. So you better get some soft Christmas presents if you don't want the Christmas Cat to eat you ;) 

The first Yule Lad to arrive from the mountains on the 12th of December is Stekkjastaur (Sheep Cote Clod). The last one is Kertasníkir (Candle Beggar), but he arrives on the 24th of December and from him well behaving children receive the biggest presents in their shoe, so that is always a day to look forward to.

After Christmas the Yule Lads return back to their home in Dimmuborgir, one by one, in the same order as they arrived to town until the last one, Kertasníkir, leaves on the last day of Christmas, January 6th.

The Icelandic Yule Lads live at Dimmuborgir in North-Iceland!

The best bet to meet the Yule Lads at Dimmuborgir is from November 15th until December 31st, when they are getting ready for Christmas and after they get back home from their expedition. The Icelandic name for a Yule Lad is "jólasveinn" so if you walk through Dimmuborgir shout out loud: "Jólasveinn!!"- and see what happens! I have heard that they are greeting people from 1 pm-3 pm :)

I have not met the Icelandic Yule Lads personally at Dimmuborgir, so the photos of the Yule Lads at Dimmuborgir are courtesy of the Dimmuborgir Yulelads and Mývatnsstofa Visiting Centre, where you can find a good description on all the characteristics of each and every Yule Lad. The photographer is Þorgeir Jóhannsson.

There are many tours to and around Mývatn - I have also written many blogs on Mývatn as this area, along with Jökulsárgljúfur canyon, is my favourite place to visit in Iceland.

There is a play in English on the Icelandic Yule Lads and their parents. It is called "The Most Wonderful Time of the Year" and is shown 4 times in December for foreigners visiting Iceland at this time of year. 

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