Traditional Christmas Greeting: "Gledileg Jol"
Location: Scandinavia
Tree Type: Traditional

Decorations:

  • The snowflake ornaments represent the Christmas snow.
  • The elves represent the Christmas goblins or elves (Jolasveninar)
  • The candles are made of mutton tallow and are fastened to the branches with wire.

The Christmas season begins 13 days before Christmas Day. According to a 13th century legend, two ogres lived in the mountains. The woman's name was Gryla and her husband's name was Leppalothi. Leppalothi was bed ridden and Gryla went from house to house begging food. At Christmas time, she stole children that had been bad during the past year. In 1746 the king of Iceland forbade the telling of this folk tale. From then on, the children (Jolasveinar) of the two ogres became associated with the Christmas season.

The 13 Jolasveinar live in the mountains and are dressed in red or in native Icelandic costume. Beginning on December 13th, the Jolasveinar start to come into towns and villages, one Jolasveinar a day. Originally the Jolasveinar would play tricks on the people. They were responsible for stealing things, playing tricks and begging food, candles and other things. Today they are responsible for giving gifts. For 13 days, one of these goblins or elves will leave a gift in the children's shoes, which are placed on the windowsill if the child has been good. If the children have been bad they leave a potato or other reminder that gifts are for good children. The Jolasveinar start returning to the mountains on Christmas Day, one a day until, the last one departs on January 6th.

Historically, Christmas traditions have been intermingled with ancient Yule tradition of the winter solstice. These traditions can be found in the Icelandic Sagas. Medieval writings tell of Yule celebrations held in conjunction with Christmas. The Medieval period also gave rise to many superstitions surrounding Yule Eve (Jretthdinn). At this time of year the dead walk the earth; the river Oxar is turned into wine; you can find your future mate by looking into a mirror in a pitch-black room.