Christmas in Iceland: Gift Bringers
The people of Iceland invented their own unique Christmas gift bringers called the Christmas Lads. In past centuries Icelanders imagined this band of thirteen brothers as fearsome trolls. Over the years they shrank in stature and their appetite for troublemaking diminished. Nowadays images of the Christmas Lads often depict them as elf-like beings, dressed in a manner that resembles Santa Claus. The first Lad arrives thirteen days before Christmas. Another comes on the following day and so on, until the household hosts all thirteen elves on Christmas Eve. On Christmas Day the first elf leaves. One leaves each day thereafter, until the last Lad departs on Epiphany.
Some Icelanders wish to popularize the idea that Santa Claus lives in Iceland. At one point the government-run Iceland Board of Tourism answered the thousands of children’s letters to Santa that arrived in Iceland. After funding cuts decimated this program a private foundation stepped in to answer these letters.