With its proximity to the North Pole, it’s no surprise that our friends in Iceland have a particularly good relationship with Santa – so good in fact, that the “Jólasveinar” or the Yuletide Lads, 13 (yes 13) Santa-like trolls visit Icelandic children (and grown-ups apparently) on 13 consecutive days, starting from 12 December. Depending on whether you’ve been good or bad, will depend on whether they’ll leave little gifts or rotten potatoes. Each troll has a different name and meaning (think “the Pot Licker, Door slammer, Sausage Snatcher, Window Peeper, and my favourite…the Doorway Sniffer!?!”) According to 17th century folklore they are the sons of “Grýla and Leppalúði”, two blood thirsty trolls who send their offspring down from the mountains to wreak havoc in the community! I’m not actually sure how well that would go down in my household, given my children have always struggled with the fact a large man with a beard somehow gets into the inner sanctuary of the house every year, despite modern locking mechanisms, a wood burning stove and “secure by design” doors and windows.
What’s more, you need to be organised when writing your Christmas list in Iceland. Locals traditionally receive at least one new piece of clothing for Christmas, to be worn on Christmas Day or they’ll be eaten by…wait for it…the Christmas Cat, a massive black cat prowling the countryside looking for offenders. Quite extraordinary really.
Meanwhile, our friends in the South Atlantic fall more in line with the traditions of the UK – although Santa’s sleigh tends to be replaced by a Sea King helicopter and for Falkland Islanders, leaving your Christmas shopping late means placing orders at the beginning of November. Christmas trees tend to be artificial due to the lack of any trees on the islands, turkey is replaced with lamb, carols are sung under the…erm…whale bones (outside the world’s most southerly Cathedral) and all capped off with a good old “knees up” at the boxing day sports festival featuring horse racing, tug of war and running races.
Nearer to home, my home that is, it will be business as usual – although we too have our quirks. We have Victorian markets, carol singing, tree lighting ceremonies featuring X factor “also rans”, Santa’s grotto’s, we also impose our faces on amusing dancing elves, watch our local football teams, have a day at the races, or a boxing day dip in the North Sea. We could on the other hand just settle for a bracing walk with the pooch, lunch in the local pub and an afternoon kip in front of the telly. Hardly the same as being stalked by a feral troll that wants to sniff your doorstep, but to be honest, I think I’m fine with that.
Season’s Greetings from all at F&L.