Thursday, December 8

Christmas in Iceland

I don't know if I've mentioned this, but I was a child of the Navy. And in the late sixties, when I was seven, my family was stationed in Keflavik, Iceland.

Now, from my experience the best thing about being abroad in the service during the holidays is that you get to celebrate American holidays and the tradition of your host country.

And when you're seven, Christmas in Iceland is awesome.

We had our traditional red-suited fat guy and the Icelandic people had their yule lads.

What? You've never heard of these little guys? There are thirteen of them. That's thirteen times as many santas as I was used to. Score!

The yule lads are descended from trolls. The story I heard as a child was that one came each night for nine nights before Christmas. We put a shoe in the window--mine was gold elf-toed slipper--and if we were good we were left a present--a dime, a piece of peppermint or a chocolate coin. If we were bad, our shoes were knocked out of the window.

Their names described their behavior, like Door Slammer, Meat Thief, Sausage Begger, Skyr Lover, and in our home, the dreaded Window Peeker. Window Peeker could be lurking about at any moment, looking in the windows making sure we were on our best behavior. And my mom, she drew his name like a gun to keep us in line during December. She'd always pretend not to know who was coming, saying it could be Window Peeker's night.

The only night we were sure about was Christmas Eve because that's the night Candle Begger arrived. On that night we left a candle in our shoe and in exchange, Candle Begger left presents under the tree. The Yule Lads use the candles collected on that night to light their cave for the next year.

Yeah, Christmas in Iceland was the best. Plus, we were almost guaranteed a White Christmas, which is an anomaly here in the Pacific Northwest, where we moved two years later after my dad retired.


  1. I've never heard of them. What fun that was. Or is. Iceland sounds fascinating, too. Great post, Margie.

  2. Thank you, Liz. After Iceland, it was pretty disappointing returning to a one-santa Christmas :)

  3. I love this post. Iceland sounds fascinating.

  4. That is awesome, Margie! What a fun time to experience a new culture.

  5. Shawn, it was fascinating more often than not.

    Kristi, it was the perfect time--I was old enough to remember quite a lot of it and young enough to enjoy the magic of it.

    My sister who is two years younger remembers hardly any of the time we spent there and my youngest sister was born there.

    So, this one instance where being the oldest paid off :)

  6. Oh, love it! I've always wanted to go to Iceland!

  7. D--You'd probably love it. You're used to that kind of weather ;) On second thought, you'd better only go in the summer when it's 90% light. You'd hate the dark winters.

    Maybe that's why the weather doesn't bother me now. When you've walked to the bus stop in darkness so dense that you have to wear reflector tape on your coat for 5 months of the year--rain is just an inconvenience.