The days leading up to Christmas were made for indulgence. That one extra drink on a night out loses its taboo; it’s fine to go a little over budget to get that perfect gift for a loved one… and then, of course, there’s the food.
So rich and plentiful. In my home, it’s a festive tradition to stumble to bed feeling double the weight you were before eating, all the while remembering the plentiful leftovers downstairs. Yes, indulgence is king at Christmas.
However, if you are in Iceland on the night before the 16th of December, no matter how full you are feeling, it’s best to polish those leftovers off. After all, this is the night the fifth Yule Lad descends, ready to begin his thirteen-day tour of mischief around the country. Be warned, he has a great nose for lingering food.
Pottaskefill, known in English as Pot-Scraper, waits until nightfall, when everyone is asleep, to begin indulging in his gluttonous hijinks. Breaking into one home after another, he seeks out pots of cranberry sauce, chunks of roast chicken left on the tray, saucepans of seasonal vegetables, and basically scours off anything leftover to eat.
See Also: Christmas in Iceland
In the morning, many Icelanders wake up giddy to the thought of a cold-turkey sandwich for breakfast. This is only to discover an empty fridge, cellophane and Tupperware discarded on the floor, with not even the measliest morsel to remind them of the feast they had enjoyed the night before.
Like many of the Yule Lads, Pottaskefill was much more frightening historically. Before industrialisation and the use of greenhouses in Iceland, most foodstuffs were meant to be preserved to last throughout the long winter months, because no one dared a fishing trip onto the tumultuous seas or slaughter an animal that could otherwise help them sustain their livelihoods in summer.