When in Reykjavik, look out for the statue of Iceland's infamous Christmas Cat, lit up for the holiday season with 6,500 LED lights and a glittering golden collar.
Icelandic Christmas lore is wonderfully weird and more than a little frightening... much like Bjork's singing (more on that later). Instead of Santa Claus, for example, Iceland has the Yule Lads, thirteen troll-like creatures who delight in tricking people. The Yule Lads would leave small gifts in the shoes of good children but left potatoes in the shoes of kids who misbehaved. Oh the horror... but it gets worse.
The Yule Lads' mother, a notoriously ugly giantess named Grylla, is said to eat unruly children who wouldn't obey their parents. Grylla has a huge pet cat named Jólakötturinn who shares Grylla's appetite for kids. Jólakötturinn is a tad more discriminating, however, only eating lazy children who slack off doing their autumn wool-working. Completing one's chores diligently saved you from being eaten by Jólakötturinn and, as an extra bonus, meant you'd have new clothes under the tree on Christmas morning. Oh joy!
Iceland's Christmas Cat may be an old legend but it's been revived over the years, first in 1932 via a poem written by Icelandic poet Jóhannes úr Kötlum, and again in 1987 in a song by Bjork (watch the video here). Now Jólakötturinn is back with a vengeance, baring an enormous toothy grin in downtown Reykjavik's Lækjartorg square.
On November 24 the president of the city council emcee'd a public lighting ceremony in the square. At 4pm sharp, Dóra Björt Guðjónsdóttir flipped the switch and 6,500 LED lights affixed to the 5 meter (16 ft) tall and 6 meter (19 ft) long statue blazed into life. For more information, please visit the Miðbörg Reykjavíkur Facebook page.