The 6th of January marks the official end of the yuletide, or the Christmas period as it is more commonly known. Although it is called Twelfth Night in English, Icelanders call it the Þrettándinn (the Thirteenth), since we begin celebrations a little early, on Christmas Eve.

Þrettándinn has some interesting traditions and folklore attached to it, here are the highlights.


See Also: Christmas in Iceland


Yule lads

This Yule Lad likes to rob candles out of children's hands!

Illustration by Haukur Valdimar Pálsson

As we covered on the site the thirteen brothers came down from the mountains one by one, they then also left one by one. This means that on the Last Day of Christmas the thirteenth yule lad, Kertasníkir, heads back to his mother’s cave.

Elves

It is said that Icelandic elves move house at the end of the year. On New Year’s Eve it is tradition to recite a chant inviting them to stay and go as the please, without harming you or your loved ones.

After getting settled in their new abode the elves then party on the 6th of January, as is only right. Back in the day some people would even leave food and wine out for the elves during the night.


See also: Folklore in Iceland


Songs

Many Icelanders sing songs on Þrettándinn. These songs often tell the story of elves who trick and tempt humans. For example, the song about Ólafur Liljurós, a human man who is murdered by elves after he declined their offer to live with them and tells them he prefers believing in Christ.

Lights and Bonfires

Fireworks lighting up the sky.

Christmas is a festival of lights for Icelandic people, we use candles and electronic lights to get us through the darkest days of winter. Some people take their Christmas decorations down after Þrettándinn, but many let the lights stay up while the days are still short.

A tradition which adds light and warmth to the last day of Christmas are the annual bonfires, which happen in several places in Reykjavík and across the country. People also illuminate the night sky with fireworks on the 6th of January.


See also: Fireworks in Iceland | New Year’s Eve Photo Gallery


Here is a list of bonfires and celebrations around Reykjavik:

Ægisíða. At 6PM, a group singing and carrying torches will lead people from Melaskóli school to the bonfire at Ægisíða. The bonfire will be lit at 6:30 and a firework display will begin at 6:50. There is also a rumour that a few Yule Lads might drop by on their way to the mountains.

Grafarvogur. The party starts at Gufunesbær recreation centre at 5PM. There will be a chance to buy coco and waffles as well as get your face painted. Right before six, the school orchestra will lead people towards the bonfire which will be set ablaze at 6PM. Firework display is scheduled at 6:30 and a band (and perhaps a few Yule Lads) will keep the party going into the evening.

Grafarholt. From Guðríðarkirkja church, a brass band will lead participants towards the bonfire around 6PM. The bonfire will be lit at 6:30 and there will be a chance to buy some hot coco and kleina (Icelandic twisted doughnut). The firework display is scheduled at 7 and a few Yule Lads had planned on dropping by as well.