Thursday, November 22, 2012

World's Weirdest Christmas Traditions: Jólakötturinn or Christmas Cat - Iceland

The Jólakötturinn or Christmas Cat, from Iceland, is an evil black cat that lives in the mountains with the mother of trolls, Grýla, and the father of trolls, Leppalúði.

The ginormous cat’s sole purpose in life is to eat children (and adults, some say) that do not get a new piece of clothing before Christmas.

To encourage children to work hard, their parents told the tale of the Yule Cat, saying that Jólakötturinn could tell who the lazy children were because they did not have at least one new item of clothing for Christmas, and they would be sacrificed to the Yule Cat. This reminder tends to spur children into doing their chores.

So, basically, if you do not have the money or means of acquiring new items of clothing before the festival of lights, you will be eaten by a gigantic cat. This is one of the reasons that Icelanders clock in more hours of overtime.

In 1746, the Danish government forbade the people of Iceland to tell the story of Grýlas family and about the Christmas Cat, Denmark thought it was a tale too cruel to tell the children.

The people of Iceland continued to tell it though, and it survives even to this day.

Lyrics in English :

Jólakötturinn (english Translation) by Bjork :

You know the christmas cat
- that cat is very large
We dont know where he came from
nor where he has gone

He opened his eyes widely
glowing both of them
it was not for cowards
to look into them

His hair sharp as needles
his back was high and bulgy
and claws on his hairy paw
were not a pretty sight

Therefore the women competed
to rock and sow and spin
and knitted colorful clothes
or one little sock

For the cat could not come
and get the little children
they had to get new clothes
from the grownups

When christmas eve was lighted
and the cat looked inside
the children stood straight and red-cheeked
with their presents

He waved his strong tail
he jumped, scratched and blew
and was either in the valley
or out on the headland

He walked about, hungry and mean
in hurtfully cold christmas snow
and kindled the hearts with fear
in every town

If outside one heard a weak "meaow"
then unluck was sure to happen
all knew he hunted men
and didnt want mice

He followed the poorer people
who didnt get any new clothing
near christmas - and tried and lived
in poorest conditions

From them he took at the same time
all their christmas food
and ate them also themselves
if he could

Therefore the women competed
to rock and sow and spin
and knitted colorful clothes
or one little sock

Some had gotten an apron
and some had got a new shoe
or anything that was needful
but that was enough

For pussy should not eat no-one
who got some new piece of clothes
She hissed with her ugly voice
and ran away

If she still exists I dont know
but for nothing would be his trip
if everybody would get next christmas
some new rag

You may want to keep it in mind
to help if there is need
for somewhere there might be children
who get nothing at all

Mayhaps that looking for those who suffer
from lack of plentiful lights
will give you a happy season
and merry christmas

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