Christmas culinary traditions vary significantly between families. There is however one common central feature to any festive feast, and that’s the meat.
Whether it be hangikjöt (smoked lamb), rock ptarmigan, reindeer or a huge hunk of ham, the flesh on the table is the star of the show. Whatever animal is to be served, it is of the utmost interest to the penultimate Yule Lad, Ketkrókur ‘Meat Hook’.
Lurking wherever he has access to a kitchen (behind doors, under tables, in cupboards, outside open windows), he lays in wait for the meat of any dish to be slapped onto the counter. As soon as he thinks he can avoid capture, he’ll pull out his long hook, and snag himself the centrepiece of a family meal.
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Unlike his brother, Bjúgnakrækir, who only steals smoked sausages, Ketkrókur is indiscriminate towards the meat he wishes to engorge himself on. So, whether you’re enjoying some smoked salmon or a slice of hangikjöt, be sure to keep a close eye on your dinner lest you find your favourite component snatched away.
The 23rd of December is Saint Thorlak’s day (Þorlaksmessa) in Iceland on which it is tradition to have fermented skate fish for dinner. Putrified and smelling intensely ammoniacal, this might be one dish you wouldn’t mind Ketkrókur getting his hook into!
For those living in Reykjavík, it’s custom to visit the city centre after dinner to meet friends and scoop up those last remaining presents. The shops are open late, the streets are packed, and some people have a funny smell to them; now you know why!
For thirteen days, Ketkrókur badgers households all over Iceland, pinching as much food as he can get away with before moving onto the next. His appetite knows no bounds! After his tasty tour, he’s been known to have still a little space for his wicked mother’s stew, famously made from naughty children collected over Christmas.