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Christmas is coming, and the horrifying Jólakötturinn or Yule Cat is on the prowl! This monstrous creature, a staple of Icelandic folklore, stalks the snowy countryside and peeps through your windows looking for those who haven’t received new clothes on Christmas Eve. Anyone who has not had the fashionable wherewithal to update their winter wardrobe will be euphemistically “claimed by the Christmas cat”. That means devoured.

Stories of this ferocious feline were considered so terrifying that, at one point, it was illegal to use them to scare children. The stories themselves served as an incentive to maintain a good work ethic, as working hard was the only way to guarantee you would get new clothes for Christmas. In short, the moral of the story was: work hard for material gain or slack off and get eaten by a giant cat. Like Dobby and the fabled sock, families would give clothes to the needy and destitute so that everyone could enjoy a carnage-free Christmas.

To all intents and purposes, Jólakötturinn looks just like a normal cat. Aside from the fact that he’s monstrously huge, has whiskers as sharp as needles, giant eyes that glow like beacons, and razor sharp claws the size of an average snowmobile. The jury is still out as to whether large balls of twine, toy mice, or lazer pointers have any effect on this furry foe.

The origins of Jólakötturinn are shrouded in mystery and, although he is believed to date back to the Dark Ages, written records of his mythos didn’t appear until the nineteenth century. Historians posit that he may be connected to several other mythical animals associated with the Yuletide season such as the Yule Goat, a pagan deity who was charged primarily with watching people closely and making sure their Yule preparations were done correctly. After all, Christ was born in a barn, so it seems only fitting that farm animals should be sent to do his bidding.

Everyone's favourite Icelandic pixie Bjork recorded a version of the traditional Icelandic carol, "Jólakötturinn" ("The Christmas Cat"), which you can enjoy on my profile page. Yes, it is quite creepy. In a good way.

Information from: Malicious Myths: Jólakötturinn

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