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The Icelandic Christmas period is an intriguing mixture of religious practice and traditional folklore, beginning on 23 Decemberand ending on Epiphany, 6 January. As many countries do, Iceland celebrates Chrismas mostly with good food and gifts to loved ones, but unlike most countries that have a single Father Christmas / Santa Claus character, Icelandic children are fortunate enough to be visited by 13 Yule Lads. Other Christmas stories are rather bleak in nature, perhaps reflecting the harshness of winter and the isolation of the community in previous centuries.
Icelandic children place a shoe in their bedroom window each evening in the 13 days before Christmas. Every night one Yuletide lad visits, leaving sweets and small gifts or rotting potatoes, depending on how that particular child has behaved on the preceding day. Each Yuletide lad has a specific idiosyncrasy and will therefore behave in a particular manner.