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Learn about Jólasveinar. A Santa legend from Iceland.

There are 13 Jolasveinar, otherwise known as 'Christmas Boys'. They first appeared in the 17th century and are the sons of two trolls, Gryla and Leppaludi.

Gryla and Leppaludi were frightening creatures, and had a reputation for stealing and eating children who are naughty. Leppaludi was bed ridden, so Gryla had to go around the countryside to find food for her husband. At Christmas time, she steals children that have been naughty during the year.

The legend of the Jolasveinar stemmed from this story about Gryla and Leppaludi. When stories about the Jolasveinar first appeared, they were frightening creatures just like their parents. Over the years, they have become milder, gentler creatures.

In the earlier stories, they would arrive one at a time, starting 13 days before Christmas. Each one would do their best to cause minor havoc on Christmas preparations. One would steal the food, another would dirty the clothes, there was one who'd steal the candles; each had their own way to wreak havoc.

Today, they leave little presents for the children who have behaved all year. The children leave their shoes on their window sills and the Jolasveinarv fill their shoes with little gifts. Any children who have been naughty get a potato or some other reminder that good behavior is essential around Christmas.

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