A ‘Christmas Shoe’ typical of those made by Icelandic preschool children. The tradition of placing a shoe in the window began over 80 years ago in Iceland. Sheep-Cote Clod must know how much this shoe’s owner loves tangerines.

My favourite part of the Icelandic Christmas tradition began this morning, December 12, with thousands of Icelandic children waking up and excitedly checking inside their shoe on the window sill! The first of the thirteen long-awaited Yuletide Lads (Jólasveinar) made his way down from the mountains sometime last night, leaving a little present in the shoes of Icelandic children.

Or a potato for those who were not up to their best behaviour yesterday!

The Icelandic Yule-Tide Lads come in many guises, from the traditional mountain trolls to Coca-Cola Santas. You can find story books and figurines of the lads in all their forms, such as the one of Sheep-Cote Clod shown here.

This first one is called Sheep-Cote Clod (Stekkjastaur) and is infamous for trying to suckle ewes – a feat made difficult if not impossible by the stiffness of his wooden legs. He always carries a staff and is recognisable by the awkward manner in which he walks.

I’ll keep you posted as each of Sheep-Cote Clod’s brothers make their way down from the mountains over the twelve days remaining until Christmas, at which point their parents will also join them along with the terrible Christmas Cat, who has been known to eat children who haven’t received new clothes at Christmas. I was considering wearing the same outfit I did a couple of years ago for Christmas dinner, but am now reconsidering…

I’ll also let you know a bit more about the Icelandic Christmas tradition in coming days, and with any luck will make it to the Icelandic Open-Air Folk Museum at Árbær on Sunday – every December they have a special Christmas exhibition, open each Sunday before Christmas, where visitors can familiarise themselves with Icelandic Christmas traditions such as making ‘leaf-bread’ (laufabrauð, a very decorative fried flat bread), singing around the Christmas tree and meeting a few of the Yuletide Lads. Information about the Christmas exhibitions does not seem to be available on their website in English, but if you’d like to visit next Sunday, opening hours are 1pm to 5pm, with a Christmas mass held at 2pm.

An Icelandic sheep farmer, or Sheep-Cote Clod stealing into a sheep pen last night?