Meow-erry Christmas: Have you met Jólakötturinn, the Icelandic anti-Santa?


While you’re indulging in the festive cheer and rampant commercial takeover of this holiday season, keep this Icelandic folklore in mind… Or Christmas could be anything but puuuurrrfect…


Last year I had the pleasure of traveling to Iceland for the European film awardswhich took place in Reykjavík, a city I’ve had on my bucket list for as long as I can remember.

I was blown away by the trip, not just the views, the hospitality, the beautiful Northern Lights, the chance to see Björk live or to be able to interviews Icelandic Prime Minister Katrín Jakobsdóttirbut because I came back with a new way to traumatize my nephew.

You see, even though you may have heard of the Grinch, Krampus or the Père Fouettard – all anti-Santa figures who punish naughty children (essentially, the vile child who beats Yins to the benevolent, gift-giving Yang) – you may not be aware of the giant, child-chewing Yule cat, Jólakötturinn .

I certainly wasn’t.

I came face to face with the Christmas cat for the first time in the center of Reykjavík, in the delightful Lækjartorg square.

Now, I’ve always loved cats, simply because the fluffy agents of chaos have long been a multi-faceted symbol in the arts, particularly that representing mystery, luck (good and bad), and even amoral behavior in movies. From Blofeld’s cat in the Bond films to Marlon Brando’s kitten The GodfatherEnemies of Inspector Gadget and Danger Mouse, Church in Cemetery for pets and MVP Salem in Sabrina The Teenage Witch, cats have always fascinated us.

That and considering that the ancient Egyptians associated them with the goddess Isis, I have long harbored the conspiracy theory that if one were to dig long and deep enough, the world would realize that the pyramids are actually triangular cat ears that they pop out of the sand. . Nothing has been proven, but I remain hopeful.

But I digress.

The illuminated cat sculpture in Reykjavík is stunning and, after some research into Icelandic folklore, has a long tradition.

As the story goes, the giant kitten eats children who don’t get new clothes for Christmas.

It dates back to 1932, when Jóhannes úr Kötlum, an Icelandic poet, wrote about the Yule Cat in his book “Jólin koma” (“Christmas is coming”).

His poem describes a large, bright-eyed cat who roams the countryside, going from house to house looking for children to consume, in case the scoundrels do not wear the new clothes they received for Christmas. To avoid this fate, children should do their household chores to be considered good enough to have new clothes – even if it is a modest pair of new socks – to remain among the living. Oh, and they should be grateful for the gifts they receive.

Over time, this story has spread to adults as well as children, as a morality tale that states that we should all help each other in the spirit of the season and help the less fortunate with small but vital gestures. To avoid a massacre orchestrated by cats, of course.

Not a bad message, all things considered.

Even if those bright eyes are like staring into the godless abyss, where darkness reigns and envelops you.

Believe me, I tried. I got stuck for a loud meow in front of Jólakötturinn, and he showed me some things. Deep, dark, beautiful things.

So, as you indulge in the festive cheer and rampant commercial acquisition of this holiday season, be worthy and grateful for your gifts and do not forget those who do not get the luxuries you may take for granted.

Or Jólakötturinn will go all Hannibal Lickter on your insubordinate Christmas asses and make Christmas anything but puuuurrrfect.


You have been warned.

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