The Emigration from Iceland to North America
The Weekly Newsletter - Nr 28
December 12, 2003  Keeping in touch every single week! (almost)
 The Yuletide Lads
We lit the third candle
in the Advent wreath.
Santa Claus is an immigrant in Iceland. And a good one. The children love him and in fact, we have treated him so well that he decided to become an Icelandic citizen. We were so engaged by him for many many years that we almost forgot our own "Santa Claus" or to be more precice, "Santa Clauses" because they are many. We call them "Jólasveinar" or Juletide Lads and they really origin in Iceland. Folklore indicates that many dangers were at hand from trolls and bogeymen in mid- winter and especially Advent. The most terrifying danger was the ogres Grýla whos favorite dish is a stew of naughty children. In 17th century she had acquired a tribe of sons, the jólasveinar, the Juletide Lads. The offspring of Grýla and her husband, Leppalúđi, the Yuletide Lads were, like their mother, bogeymen who threatened children.
Grýla and her horrible sons were clearly used by parents to terrify children into submission. In 1746, the following regulation was issued:
"The foolish custom, which has been practised here and there about the country, of scaring children with Yuletide Lads or ghosts, shall be abolished."
During the 19th century the Yuletide Lads gradually improved their image; from child-eating ogres they developed into mischievous thieving oafs. They were generally believed to come down from the mountains before Christmas, although in some coastal areas of the country they were supposed to arrive from the sea.
The Yuletide Lads.
Illustration from the cover of a Stamp Booklet.

The number of Grýla's sons varied. An 18th-century verse about Grýla mentions thirteen Yuletide Lads, but the number nine occurs in many verses, such as: "The Yuletide Lads, one and eight / came down from the mountains", still sung by all Icelandic children today.
Each Yuletide Lad had his own name and character. The 19th-century collector of folk-tales Jón Árnason recorded several different versions of Grýla's prankish family, but the version he chose to publish in 1862 consisted of a set of thirteen names:
Stekkjarstaur (Sheepfold-stick), Giljagaur (Gulley-oaf), Stúfur (Shorty), Ţvörusleikir (Spoon-licker), Pottasleikir (Pot-licker), Askasleikir (Bowl-licker), Hurđaskellir (Door-slammer), Skyrgámur (Curdglutton), Bjúgna- krśkir (Sausage-pilferer), Gluggagćgir (Peeping-Tom), Gáttaţefur (Sniffer), Kjötkrókur (Meat-hook) and Kertasníkir (Candlebeggar) became firmly established as the correct names of the Yuletide Lads, once they had appeared in print.
Grýla chasing naughty children.
Drawing 1932 by Tryggvi Magnússon.
When the kind Mid Euro- pean Santa Claus came to Iceland via Denmark, he greatly influenced the Icelandic Yuletide Lads so they even tried to behave. They adopted the inter- national Santa's uniform of red suit and white beard, but they continued to be known as the Yuletide Lads, retained their tradi- tional names which had been publicized by Jón Árnason, and the tradition is maintained that the thirteen brothers descend from the mountains to farms and villages one by one on the thirteen days before Christmas. Stekkjarstaur was the first to arrive, December 12th, and the last one to arrive is Kertasníkir who is coming on Christmas Eve.
A set of verses about the Yuletide Lads by Jóhannes úr Kötlum was published in 1932 and acquired enormus popularity. It was illustrated by Tryggvi Magnússon, who portrayed the Yuletide Lads in old-fashioned Icelandic costume, wearing woollen sweaters or jackets, baggy trousers, thick socks, sheepskin shoes and woolly hats. Rather than wicked pranksters, they are simple country folk who tell children stories, sing to them and bring little gifts — and perhaps pinch a candle or a sausage.

Ref.(mainly, as so often before) Árni Björnsson: "High Days and Holidays in Iceland"

 The Snorri Program - The Adventure of a Lifetime
If you answered yes to two or more of the questions below, prepare yourself for the biggest adventure of your life - The Snorri Program!
Anyone of Icelandic descent between the ages of 18 and 25+ living in North America can apply for this exciting adventure.

The Snorri Program is a unique opportunity for young people to discover the coun- try, culture, nature and lang- uage of their ancestors, and to create or strengthen bonds with relatives living in Iceland. The program is six weeks long, running from mid-June to the end of July.
The Snorri program is a cooperative assignment be- tween the Nordic Associ- ation and INL Iceland. It has been running since 1999 and all 75 participants high- ly recommend the program. The Government of Iceland, Icelandair and various municipalities and compa- nies sponsor the program.
For more information, an application form and infor- mation on grants, please write to or visit the website at
15 applicants will be selected to participate in the 2004-program.
Deadline: January 12, 2004
If you are over 30 years old please visit the website at and read about The Snorri Plus Program.

 Lögberg - Heimskringla
As I have mentioned before you can read Lögberg-Heimskringla, The Icelandic week- ly, online and you can read it for free. At least until the end of this year. Just go to Lögberg-Heimskringla and register. You can then read, well I dont know how many previous issues and of course the latest one, the very interesting Christmas special. Don't miss it.
How about giving a subscription as a Christmas gift?

Settler of the Week

Tómas Halldórsson

Ţórvör M. Jónasdóttir

Tómas Halldórsson was born 7 Apr 1863 and from his sixth year of age he was fostered by his aunt Margrét Tómas- dóttir and her husband Sumarliđi Thorkelsson. With them Tómas emigrated in 1882 and they settled down near Mountain, N-Dakota. There Tómas farmed for the rest of his life, except for two years when he dwelled at Point Roberts in Washington. In 1889 Tómas married Ţórvör Marselína Jónasdóttir, born 29 Apr 1859. He was her second husband. They had eight children: 1) Margrét Kristín, married to Sigurjón Fr. Steinólf- son, 2) Tómas Sumarliđi, farmer in Leslie, Sask., married to Guđbjörg Konráđsdóttir. Her parents: Konráđ Eyjólfsson farmer in Churchbridge, Sask. and his wife María Guđ- brandsdóttir, 3) Halldór Marcelíus, married to Lára Grímsdóttir Scheving, her parents: Grímur Jónsson Scheving, farmer at Lundar, Man. and Gardar, N-Dakota and his wife Guđný Eiríksdóttir, 4) Ţórvör Aldís, 5) Skúli Helgi, 6) Vilhjálmur Kristinn, farmer in Mountain, N-Dak., 7) María Helga, 8) Gíslína Guđfinna.
Do you recognize the names? Can you give me further information?

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