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December 12

Yuletide Lads

Yuletide Lads 

The Yuletide-lads originate from Icelandic folklore.
Early on their number and depictions varied greatly depending on location, with each individual Lad ranging from a mere prankster to a homicidal monster who eats children.

In 1932, the poem "Jólasveinarnir" was published as a part of the popular poetry book Jólin Koma ("Christmas Is Coming") by Icelandic poet Jóhannes úr Kötlum. The poem reintroduced Icelandic society to Icelandic Yuletide folklore and established what is now considered the canonical thirteen Yuletide-lads, their personalities and connection to other folkloric characters.

The Yuletide-lads were originally portrayed as being mischievous, or even criminal, pranksters who would steal from, or otherwise harass the population (at the time mostly rural farmers). They all had descriptive names that conveyed their modus operandi.

The Yuletide-lads are traditionally said to be the sons of the mountain-dwelling trolls Grýla and Leppalúði. They would trek from the mountains to scare Icelandic children who misbehaved before Christmas. Additionally, the Yuletide-lads are often depicted with the Yule Cat, a beast that, according to folklore, eats children who do not receive new clothes for Christmas.

Read about them



Laufabrauð (Icelandic Snowflake Bread)

In Iceland, these pretty, crisp flatbreads hang from windows as decorations – although they are perfectly edible, too.


  • 250g plain flour

  • 1½ tsp caster sugar

  • ½ tsp baking powder

  • ½ tsp salt

  • 25g unsalted butter

  • 115ml whole milk

  • vegetable oil, for frying

Equipment needed

  • cooking thermometer

  • 20cm round cake tin or plate

  1. Tip the flour, sugar, baking powder and salt into a bowl. Rub in the butter until the mixture resembles breadcrumbs.
  2. Warm the milk in a small pan over a low heat until it reaches 45°C/113°F on the cooking thermometer, then pour it over the flour mixture. Turn the mixture with your fingers, mixing until you’ve picked up all of the flour from the sides of the bowl and have incorporated all the scraps to create a ball of dough.
  3. Turn out the dough onto a lightly floured work surface and knead until smooth. Divide the dough into 10 balls, each weighing 35g, and cover with a slightly damp tea towel, to prevent them from drying out.
  4. Roll out each piece of dough until it is very thin on a lightly floured surface. Use the plate or cake tin to cut each into a 20cm circle. These breads are traditionally very thin – if you can read the headings of a newspaper (some say the article text!) through the rolled dough, it’s thin enough.
  5. To decorate the discs, use a paring knife and, working outwards from the centre of each disc, cut ‘spokes’ of nested Vs, 5mm apart.
  6. Use the knife to lift the tip of every other V, then fold each tip back to cross over the V behind it, pressing the dough to stick down the tip. Cut a small hole near the edge of each disc for threading a ribbon.
  7. As you complete each disc, place it on a sheet of greaseproof paper and cover with another sheet to stop the discs drying out.
  8. Heat a 5cm depth of oil in a large, deep pan to 200°C/400°F. Prick the leaf breads with a fork to prevent them blistering, then fry them one at a time, for about 30 seconds, flipping once, until crisp. Remove from the pan and drain on absorbent kitchen paper.
  9. Allow the leaf breads to cool, then carefully thread ribbon through the prepared hole.

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