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Christmas cat

The Christmas Cat

You all know the cat of Christmas
that cat was huge and fat.
no one knew where he came from
nor where he was at.

He opened his glowering eyes wide,
each like a burning gem.
It wasn‘t for the faint of heart
to face them.


The Christmas Cat is among the best-known Icelandic Christmas creatures. It is a humongous animal, as described in this popular poem by Jóhannes úr Kötlum, well known to people of all ages in Iceland. As legend has it, the Cat eats those who don‘t get new clothes for Christmas. To avoid this horrible fate, you‘d better do your chores in order to receive if only new socks or some simple garment. The Cat is related to animal figures in the other Nordic countries, such as the Scandinavian Yule goat, also a well-known figure of folklore.

Today, the Cat is often said to be the household pet of equally terrifying giantess Grýla and her lazy husband Leppalúði, the parents of the so-called Yule Lads. Whether this is true or not no one really knows, but what we can say for sure is that if we all help each other in the good spirit of the season, no one should have to be gobbled up by the Cat if it really does exist anywhere outside of all the fascinating stories and poems told about it.


If he‘s still around, I know not,
but nothing would be his fare
if everyone could on Christmas have
new clothes to wear.

So maybe you‘ll have a heart
and give help to the weak and small,
for numerous needy children
get nothing at all.

And searching for those who suffer
from shortage of light for true,
may perhaps make your Christmas
merry, too.


The verses are from the long poem "The Christmas Cat" by Jóhannes úr Kötlum. Hallberg Hallmundsson translated to English. The poem in whole, along with other Christmas poems by the same poet, can be found in the book Christmas is Coming.

Reykjavík is a UNESCO City of Literature.