Hurdaskellir....Door-slammer and The Christmas Cat
Hurdaskellir........Door-slammer is the seventh to arrive. He waits until everyone has gone to sleep, then slams all the doors in the house. He delights in the different sounds they make. The household wakes up startled from their sleep, children cry and dogs bark. All this is music to Door-slammer’s ears.
The Christmas Cat (Jolakottur) has been striking terror in the hearts of Icelandic children for generations.
The Jolakottur, is an enormous and ferocious ugly specimen of a cat, who has an appetite for misbehaving children. Naughty children did not get new things to wear for Christmas, thus they would have to stay in bed, miss all the festivities and worse, be eaten by the Christmas Cat.
Oh! The horror of it. I was always a good girl, really I was ;) My Mother always made sure I would have something red to wear, a candle and playing cards for Christmas. And I am here to tell the story, so obviously the Christmas Cat never ate me.
It is not enough that in Iceland adults had to worry whether their Christmas dinner would be delayed or stolen. Whether they and their animals would be scared out of their whits by the pranksters, whose progress we have been following here, the Jolasveinar. Their children had to deal with the Christmas Cat, Grila and Leppaludi who had a huge appetite for naughty children.
Now, the Jolasveinar have become generous benefactors to good children. They each leave them a gift in their shoe. If the Children have been naughty they will get a potato in their shoe instead of a gift. They are still up to the tricks that their name conveys , however, they never forget to leave something in the children’s shoes.
Not a bad life, I would say, for the modern Icelandic Children, who get a present in their shoe for 13 days, before Christmas. Furthermore there have been no reports of children having been eaten by the Christmas cat, Grila or Leppaludi, instead one hears an occasional report, that someone found the dreaded potato in their shoe.
This is a true story.
When I was twelve years old we lived next door to my Aunt and Uncle's house. One of my little cousins was a four years old boy, who had a way of testing ones patience. One evening just before Christmas he came over to our house for a visit. My Mother and I were baking cookies and my father was wrapping presents. He was getting in every ones way, snatching a cookie here, playing with the tape, getting hold of the scissors and asking questions over and over. Finally our patience wore thin so we used the Christmas Cat threat, which started with us saying “The Christmas Cat will get you if you are not good” and ending by knocking on any handy wooden surface, while he was not looking and saying “That is the Christmas Cat, he is trying to get you”
Why we did all the knocking still amuses me. Did we think the Christmas Cat was so polite, that he would knock? My little cousin told us that there was no Christmas Cat and that we were just teasing him. Finally my Mother had enough and asked me to take my cousin back to his house.
When we opened the door there was a new fallen snow and coming from around the corner of our house right up to the door were cat prints. The little cousin screamed in terror, grabbed my leg and tried to pull me away from the door. Finally after soothing him and hearing promises from him to be good, he agreed that I could carry him back to his house.
Some time ago, when I was in Iceland, he told me how grateful he was that I had saved him from the Christmas Cat, when he was a little boy.
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