Day 180: it’s the most wonderful time

I have a confession to make: I didn’t spend Christmas in Iceland.  With the end of classes in December, I went back to the U.S. for a week to visit family.  More on that in a bit.

did get to see the run-up to Christmas, though, and it was much like it would be in the States … but not exactly.  The differences were weird and wonderful all at the same time.  Some things seem quite familiar …

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Icelandic house or illustration from a Hans Christian Andersen story?

While others are a little different:

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Even graveyards get Christmas lights. Image credit: as shown.

And, of course, there are the Yule Lads and their mom, Grýla.  Although depicted as eccentric annoyances now (seen in cartoons and in displays in local shopping malls), the original stories about these carnivorous trolls were every bit as terrifying as most fairy tales back in the day.

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The Yule lads (plus mom and dad). Image credit: Íslandsstofa.
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You don’t really want to know what’s in the stew Grýla is making, do you?

Images of the Yule Lads are projected onto the sides of buildings at various locations around Reykjavík, and they’re moved from one year to the next — a scavenger hunt to find them all can take days.

And then there’s the cat:

Jólakötturinn, the Yule Cat, is an enormous beast said to roam the countryside devouring anyone who didn’t get an article of clothing for Christmas.  So be grateful for the socks!

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What’s under YOUR tree? Image credit: visitreykjavik.is.

And about that visit to the U.S. — my flight to Baltimore was uneventful, and the connecting flight to Las Vegas was the same.  But it’s been months since I’ve seen crowds as big and as thick as the ones at those airports, and I found they made me a little claustrophobic.  The feeling passed, but I was happy to get back to Hobbes and to my home in the North Atlantic in time for New Year’s Eve.  More on that later.

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