Monday, December 2, 2013

Yule Cat: That Ugly Christmas Sweater Might Save Your Life

by Megan S.

Count yourself lucky if you find an ugly sweater, homemade bunny suit, or six pack of tube socks under the Christmas tree with your name on it this year.  The well-meaning gift giver may have just saved your life.  Jólaköttur, Iceland's mythic feline answer to Anna Wintour, could gobble you up if you aren't sporting new duds on December 25th.

Move over Krampus, there's a new vintage Christmas monster in town - the original grumpy cat.
Yule Cat by Quizzical-Squidopus
Also known as the Yule Cat, the legendary beast was described as having glowing eyes, ferocious claws, and sharp teeth.  Tales of the feline were used to scare workers into being productive; urging the laborers to finish processing wool from the autumn harvest.  If the proletariat didn't complete their tasks, they wouldn't receive a gift of new clothes from their employer to wear on Christmas and would therefore be subject to the wrath of the cat.

Iceland's Jóhannes úr Kötlum gave the legend a more uplifting twist in his nineteenth century poem, Jólakötturinn. The poet ends his cautionary tale by suggesting the listener seek out the poor and unfortunate and make sure they would be spared by giving them new clothes for Christmas.

The tradition of wearing new clothes on December 25 persists to this day in Iceland.  So who knows if Jólaköttur is really a myth.  I'd think twice about shunning that ugly Christmas sweater you received if I were you.  That sweet looking kitten under the tree might be waiting to gobble you up.

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