For those of you who haven’t paid attention (or who’ve visited Penwasser Place solely for the kick-ass pictures), my family and I lived at the U.S. Navy air station in Keflavik, Iceland from 2003-2004.
|"This whole pillaging Europe thing has gotten boring. Whaddya say we go over to what'll be called Canada and kick some Indian ass? Plus, it'll really piss off those Columbus groupies."|
During the time we were there, we experienced a rich culture. From ogling New Year’s fireworks displays which were truly “shock and awe” to lolling about geothermal spas in sub-freezing temperatures, we immersed ourselves in all that was Icelandic.
Except for that holiday where they ate rotted sheep heads. We gave that one a pass.
One of our favorite traditions happened at Christmas. Readily acknowledging Santa Claus as the favorite of children worldwide, Icelanders add their own unique way of celebrating the run-up to December 25th. For the thirteen nights prior to Christmas morning, legend has it that they are visited by the Yule Lads.
From Sheep Worrier to Candle Beggar, each Lad has his own specific identity (luckily, Butt Sniffer didn’t pass the audition). Never malicious, they play tricks on each household, whether by drinking all the milk, or rearranging the furniture. They also leave presents in children’s shoes, unless they’d been naughty that year. In that case, they leave potatoes.
Enchanted by this charming bit of folklore, my wife and I played up the fable of the Yule Lads to our two children. As December 12th approached, we told them that Stekkjarstaur, the Sheep Worrier, would surely pay a visit that night. To be ready, they needed to place one of their shoes on their windowsills so that he could leave them a present.
Or a potato, I kidded my son.
Several hours after the sun went down and the kids had gone to bed, my wife and I set the stage for the first of the Yule Lads’ visits. Since the military didn’t allow us to transfer our sheep from the States, we opted for the modern tradition of placing empty milk cartons in the fridge.
Certain the kids were asleep, we stole into their rooms to place small presents in their shoes.
To be continued (really, what did you expect? This has gone on long enough)...