Exploring Iceland's Unique Yule: Beware the Christmas Cat

Iceland´s Christmas cat under the northern lights.
The Notorious Christmas Cat in Iceland.

In the frostbitten landscapes of Iceland, the festive season brings with it a tale as enigmatic as it is chilling, the legend of the Christmas Cat. Far from the cuddly felines that curl up by the fire, the Icelandic Yuletide feline, known as "Jólakötturinn," is a creature of colossal proportions, shrouded in the dark tapestry of folklore rather than the twinkling lights of Christmas cheer.

Who is the Christmas Cat?

The story of the Christmas cat in Iceland goes way back. First mention in poems and folklore many centuries ago. 

To be clear, Iceland's Christmas Cat is no ordinary household pet. With a stature rivaling that of a rental car, this behemoth prowls not for affection, but for prey. Emerging from its mountainous lair, where it resides with the notorious ogress Grýla – mother to the Yule Lads and a formidable figure in Iceland's culture – this pet is a far cry from the jolly companions of Santa Claus.


The Prowl of the Christmas Cat

As the festive days inch closer, whispers grow of the Christmas Cat's descent from its mountainous realm. Its lore is woven into Icelandic tradition, with origins lost in the depths of time, predating the warm and fuzzy Christmas customs known today.


What Peril does the Christmas Cat Pose?

This feline's visit is far from merry; it is a harbinger of a grave tradition. The Christmas Cat, distinct from the Yule Lads' mischievous antics, preys upon children who find themselves without the gift of new clothing for the holiday. This has birthed the Icelandic custom of gifting apparel, ensuring that all children, rich or poor, are spared from its clutches.


The Shield Against the Christmas Cat

In a poignant reflection of Iceland's culture, the Yule Lads sometimes counter their pet's grim appetite by bestowing gifts of clothing upon less fortunate children. This act of kindness is integral to the season's spirit and highlights the value of generosity so deeply ingrained in Iceland's Christmas traditions.


The Stakes of the Season

In Iceland, the consequences of naughtiness transcend the mere receipt of coal. The Christmas Cat is but one of the festive creatures on the prowl, with Grýla herself hunting for naughty children to stew. It's a cultural narrative that underscores good behavior and the importance of community support during the holidays.

Christmas cat in Reykjavik.
The Christmas Cat statuette in Reykjavik City Center in December.


Embracing the Unique Icelandic Yuletide

Iceland's Christmas cat may be the protagonist of perhaps the world's most unusual Christmas tradition, but it is a vital part of the nation's rich heritage. Despite its foreboding origins, the Christmas Cat is an iconic figure in Icelandic festivities, casting an intriguing shadow on the snow-laden landscapes and inspiring a unique blend of fear and respect among children and adults alike.


So, as you plan your Christmas in Iceland, amidst the enchanting culture and the prospect of an Iceland car rental that promises adventure, remember to pack something new to wear. After all, the Christmas Cat is on its way – and in Iceland, traditions are alive, well, and waiting to be discovered.

In Our Blog you can find more about Christmas traditions in Iceland as well as other interesting articles on Icelandic Culture and Practical Info. 










Meet amazingly energetic and excited sled dogs and have them take you for a ride. You´ll ride on wheeled sleds with real sled dogs that are very fun and friendly. You don't need snow to go for a ride, who knew!