Wednesday, December 11, 2013

13 lads of Christmas

     In addition to waterfalls and geysers and the Aurora, Iceland has outstanding museums.  On the morning of December 10, I visited the National Museum of Iceland in Reykjavik -- and enjoyed a careful introduction to the history of this fascinating and friendly nation.  Something I missed, however, was seeing one of the 13 Yuletide Lads that are an Icelandic tradition and who visit the Museum one-by-one on the 13 days before Christmas, each wearing traditional costume and trying to pilfer the goodies he likes best.
     The Yule Lads are descended from trolls, and originally they were bogeymen who scared children. During this century they have mellowed, but they still tend to pilfer and play tricks.  A popular poem by Jóhannes úr Kötlum (1899-1972), which first appeared in the book Jólin koma ("Christmas is Coming") in 1932, has made their names and number widely known. 

    Here is an introduction to Yule Lad #4, "Spoon Licker," from "Christmas is Coming."

          The fourth was Spoon Licker;
          like spindle he was thin.
          He felt himself in clover
          when the cook wasn't in.

          Then stepping up, he grappled
          the stirring spoon with glee,
          holding it with both hands
          for it was slippery.

And here is my photo of an Icelandic waterfall that took my breath away:

Godafoss, "Waterfall of the Gods"

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