12 Days of Christmas #8: The Sausage Swiper

I started this series of posts after reading about a Santa Claus-like figure found in Tajikistan, and discovered that the tradition of mysterious Christmas visitors is quite widespread.  Some are animals, most bring gifts, but some are just out to cause trouble.  For instance, tonight homes in Iceland are due to be visited by Bjúgnakrækir, the Sausage Swiper, who hides in the rafters of homes and steals sausages hung for smoking over the next 13 nights.

Two of the Yule Lads, making mischief.  Image from metro.co.uk

Bjúgnakrækir is one of the 13 Icelandic Yule Lads (jólasveinarnir), who leave their rocky mountain home from the 13th of December and creep down into the towns and villages.  Each night a new lad arrives, playing pranks and causing trouble for homeowners, until they return to the mountains.  Icelandic children put a shoe on their bedroom window-ledge for each of the 13days leading up to Christmas day, hoping for a treat.  Depending on their behaviour through the year, they might be rewarded with sweets and cakes or tricked with a rotten potato.

Apparently the Yule Lads were once a lot less benign, but they have been mellowed over the years to become harmless tricksters.  Each Lad has his own distinctive character, inspired by the types of pranks he likes to play.  The Sausage Swiper is my favourite, and there is also Hurðaskellir, the Door Slammer, who wakes people on 18th December with slamming doors and stomping feet, and Þvörusleikir, the Spoon Licker, who pinches food from mixing bowls.

Meet the Dragon Tamers

This summer I spent several weeks as a crew member onboard Draken Harald Hårfagre, a Viking longship, that is  the largest ever built in modern times.  You can read more about my adventures starting here, but now meet the crew that were the dragon tamers.

The crew members were a diverse group of people, from professional sailors who’d spent a lifetime at sea to others that had only been on one sailing holiday before, from some of the most experienced Viking ship crew to dingy sailors, rowers and kayakers.  We came from all corners of the world, Scandianavia and Scotland, Estonia and England, New Zealand and the USA, France and Canada, Malta and Spain (and I’ve probably missed someone out… sorry!), speaking several languages between us (and only a few able to say døde røde rådne røgede ørreder).

The theme of the weekly photo challenge is community.

Travel Theme: Symbol

What is a symbol?  It can be a word, a sound, an image or a gesture.  A shorthand for an idea or belief.  It can be an object or it can be a person.  Indeed, over the past week it is a term that has been used extensively in tribute to the Nelson Mandela; a symbol of unity and reconciliation,  of human rights and equality, hope and freedom. Continue reading

Dem Dry Bones

Skeletons at Dia de Muertos by Guago on Flickr

Whilst writing yesterday’s post about my memories of Halloween as a child, I learned about another spooky date in the calender.  El Dia de los Muertos, or the Day of the Dead in English, is a two day festival that takes place on 1st and 2nd November each year in countries around the world, especially throughout Latin America.  Whilst superficially the two festivals may appear similar, with the array of skulls and skeletons in their imagery, the Day of the Dead has a rich history of its own. Continue reading