A note about The Cuddlywumps Chronicles

This blog is written and maintained by Miss Cuddlywumps, a fluffy-tailed calico cat who is both classically educated and familiar with mysteries. She receives creative input from the Real Cats and clerical assistance from She of Little Talent (old SoLT, a.k.a. Roby Sweet). Comments or complaints should be addressed to Miss C rather than to old SoLt (Ms. Sweet). Ms. Sweet accepts no responsibility for Miss C's opinions.

Thursday, December 14, 2017

Jólakötturinn: The Icelandic Cat Who Might Eat You for Christmas

For regular readers of this blog, the words “Christmas” and “cat” probably bring up thoughts of all the neat presents you’re getting for your cat(s) this year. Or maybe you picture your cat(s) sleeping peacefully under the tree or climbing less peacefully up the tree. In any case, the cat is innocent and sweet (yes, even when climbing the tree!). But in Iceland, the Christmas Cat, or Jólakötturinn or Jólaköttur, is a different animal altogether.  The Jólakötturinn is a monster of a cat that will eat you unless you have met one specific requirement.

A giant cat that wants to see your new Christmas clothes

The Jólakötturinn is said to be a giant cat bigger than a house. It is active on Christmas night, when it prowls from house to house, looking in windows and inspecting kids’ Christmas gifts. If a child has received new clothes, he or she is safe. But for children who have not received new clothes, the outcome is a little more unpleasant. First, the Jólakötturinn eats the child’s Christmas dinner; then it eats the child.

Why the focus on new clothes? Well, according to the tradition, if you finish your work on time, you get new clothes for Christmas. But if you’re lazy and put your work off so you can’t finish on time, no clothes for you, and you can be expecting a visit from the Jólakötturinn. Children are also encouraged to be generous to less-fortunate kids who might not otherwise receive new clothes for Christmas; that way, those less-fortunate kids can also be safe from the Christmas Cat.

Jólakötturinn , the Icelandic Yule Cat: Some Points to Remember #Jólakötturinn #YuleCat

Where did this idea come from?

The legend may be as old as the Dark Ages, but it apparently wasn’t written down until the 19th century. According to “The Yule Cat,” people worked hard to finish the work required to process the autumn wool before Christmas. Those who helped with this work received new clothing; those who didn’t, received nothing. The threat of the Jólakötturinn could offer some extra encouragement to those who were otherwise not inclined to work.

Jólakötturinn is not alone

The Jólakötturinn is not the only child-eating monster in Iceland’s Christmas lore. The beast is said to live in Iceland’s mountains with the giantess Grýla and her sons the Yule Lads. Grýla is believed to devour children who have misbehaved (a notion that gives a whole new meaning to Santa’s “naughty list”). The Yule Lads are pranksters (or child eaters, depending on the darkness of the version you believe) who steal food and play pranks on people. In modern times, they also leave presents in children’s shoes. For children who have been bad during the year, the Yule Lads leave behind rotting potatoes (and you thought coal was bad!).

So, this Christmas, as you sip hot cocoa and pet your cat while you gaze happily at the Christmas tree, make sure you’re wearing at least one new article of clothing to prove your industriousness, or don’t be surprised if you get a rather unpleasant visit from a giant cat!


Cellania, Miss. “8 Legendary Monsters of Christmas.” Mental Floss. December 16, 2015. http://mentalfloss.com/article/54184/8-legendary-monsters-christmas.

Lewis, Danny. “Each Christmas, Iceland’s Yule Cat Takes Fashion Policing to the Extreme.” Smithsonian.com. December 19, 2016. https://www.smithsonianmag.com/smart-news/each-christmas-icelands-yule-cat-takes-fashion-policing-extreme-180961420/

“Yule Cat”, Wikipedia, last edited December 7, 2017, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Yule_Cat.


  1. Any cat might eat you, the difference is the number of bites it takes.

  2. Go ahead and eat me Christmas Cat, I'm high in saturated fats. 😄

  3. Sounds like a good excuse to get some new clothes this weekend :) Very interesting post.

  4. Would you believe I was going to do a post on this next week? Love, love, love your graphic! I think this is such a cool legend.

  5. Them Icelanders are one tough bunch!

  6. WoW! Scary stuff! But most of the old tales are! I wonder if these tales go back to the neolithic like Red Ridong Hood does?
    Marv and Mom