The 21st of December is the longest night of the year and a sacred day for pagans all over the Northern Hemisphere celebrating the Winter Solstice. Although Iceland is not as pagan as it once was, it is still a day for celebration; Christmas is near, and people are eager to welcome the coming of longer, brighter days. Not so welcome, on the other hand, is the eleventh pesky Yule Lad.
Leaving from Dimmuborgir—a great, haunting basalt fortress in the country’s North by Lake Mývatn—he follows the tradition of his ten brothers before him and begins a tour of mischief around the country. This half-troll is called Gáttaþefur, which in English translates to ‘Doorway Sniffer’.
Gáttaþefur is renowned for his enormous nose, so great that even for his kind, he is considered deformed. He is best known for snuffling around door-frames in the hope of detecting his favourite meal, the Icelandic delicacy of laufarbrauð (‘leaf-bread’), to steal for himself.
See Also: Grýla & the Yule Lads on Netflix
This delicious treat only comes out over Christmas time, and making it is often a cherished family affair. It is notable for being round, very thin, fried, and decorated with intricate patterns, usually leaves.
Those renowned for detailed designs have particular umbrage with Gáttaþefur, as he will often steal their laufarbrauð before they can impress a single guest with it.
Gáttaþefur’s treacherous tour of the country, like the rest of his brothers, will last thirteen days, taking him well into the New Year. As unkind as his annual campaign of bread-theft is, however, at least his diet is more palatable than that of his giantess mother Grýla, and her giant Christmas cat.
While she feasts each year on naughty children, her less-than-adorable pet delights in the taste of any child who didn’t get clothes as a Christmas present.