Celebrating the New Year with Folklore

The New Year and upcoming days come with more feasts, holiday happenings, traditions, and folklore. Enjoy the folklore story below and Happy New Year!


Áramót - New Year


One folklore story tells of the huldufólk (hidden people/elves) who move homes in the New Year. Since they travel near the humans, it was important that the home was clean since the huldufólk are all very neat and tidy. The woman in charge of the house would then recite this poem:


Come all who wish to come,

Stay all who wish to stay,

Go all who wish to go,

And do me and mine no harm.



Folklore Story - The Elves Move House


At Storu-Akrar in Skagafjord in the year 1819, there was a young lad named Gudmundur who was just under twenty and a shepherd.


On the morning after Twelfth Night, the weather being fine, he let his sheep out for the day and drove the flock up a valley where there was pasture when the weather was tolerable.


When he came to the head of the valley with the sheep, he saw a train of pack-horses on the move. In this train, there were men, women, and children as well. The women and children sat in carts, while the horses were heavily laden.


It never occurred to Gudmundur that these could be any other than men and women like himself, though it seemed to him strange that they should be moving house at this time and that they should travel in carts. Meaning to talk to them, he left his sheep and ran to meet them, but they went faster, as if to escape him, towards some rocks. He managed to draw level with them, but the space between was too great for him to speak with them. Besides, he began to have doubts concerning what sort of folk these might be.


They now reached some cliffs and took off their caps, and it seemed to Gudmundur as though the doors of a house opened before them, and lights shone from within, as from three or four doors standing open.


Then he saw the women and children go inside, while the men carried the baggage into the house. After a while he heard a bell ring, and then singing, though not a word of it could he understand.


By the time he reached the cliffs, they had closed, and the carts in which he had seen the women and children riding turned to rocks before his eyes.


Gudmundur realized now what kind of folk they had been, and would have hastened away with all speed. But now a drowsiness came over him, so heavy that he could not walk. With this, he was seized by a weakness, so that he lay down and slept, waking as day began to dawn. He now walked with feeble steps to the foot of the cliffs but was again obliged to lie down, and fell asleep on the spot. A little later he awoke once more, to feel water dripping on his cheek. It was now broad daylight. His face, when he wiped it with his hand, was a little wet, but his strength had now returned, though he was still somewhat confused. However, he managed to make his way back to the sheep, that were all flocked together in the valley.


That evening, he drove them home and put them indoors in great disorder, and then went into the house. For some time afterward people found him very dull, but gradually the dullness disappeared until there was no more sign of it in him.


Þrettándinn - The Twelfth Night


Þrettándinn is literally translated as "The Thirteenth." January 6th is the 13th day of Christmas and is the 12th day after Christmas Day. It is considered the last day of Christmas. The last Yule lad returns to the mountains. The last of the fireworks "burn out" the past year. There are large bonfires to celebrate all the huldufólk/elves who are departing. You can attend celebrations with elf dances and parades. And this is the day we put away Christmas decorations.


Some people consider this The Old Christmas and possibly this is due to the change of the calendar. Read our post about the Old Norse Calendar: https://www.icelandicroots.com/post/the-old-norse-calendar


Hallgrímur Pétursson is one of our most famous poets. He is found in the database with more information: IR#I45949 He wrote, "The Twelfth Night is the manifestation feast, the day the Three Wise Men came from the East." This is the beginning of Epiphany / Three Kings' Day and the celebration of when the three wise men visited the baby Jesus. Traditions say that dreams you have on this night should be taken very seriously, as they have clues to your future.


On the evening of Þrettándinn, folktales say that cows can talk and seals transform into humans shedding their skins and dancing naked on the beaches. Other folklore includes sitting out on a crossroads, inviting elves into human homes, elf moving days, burning lights in every corner, bonfires, fireworks, and more.


So eat up, burn out, and take good care during these last days of the holiday. May 2022 bring you joy, peace, and goodwill. Happy New Year! Gleðilegt nýtt ár!


The SOURCE of the folklore story is from the book: Icelandic Folktales. Elves and Stories of Trolls and Elemental Beings. Iceland Review. 1977. Page 37 and 38.

Email us your questions or join the conversation on our Facebook Group.