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Thirteenth Night

Happy Thirteenth to you and all the Huldufólk!

Known as the Twelfth Night in the English-speaking Christian world, Þrettándinn (directly translated as “the thirteenth”) marks the end of Iceland’s epic Christmas season. According to folk traditions and tales, Þrettándinn is a time of talking animals, aquatic metamorphoses, naked dancing, supernatural gifts, and precognitive dreams.Known as the Twelfth Night in the English-speaking Christian world, Þrettándinn (directly translated as “the thirteenth”) marks the end of Iceland’s epic Christmas season. According to folk traditions and tales, Þrettándinn is a time of talking animals, aquatic metamorphoses, naked dancing, supernatural gifts, and precognitive dreams.

Þrettándinn, also known as Thirteenth Night, is an Icelandic holiday celebrated on 6 January. It is the last day of 13 days of Christmas, andElf bonfires (álfabrennur) and fireworks are a common part of the holiday festivities on Thirteenth Night. 

Known as the Twelfth Night in the English-speaking Christian world, Þrettándinn (directly translated as “the thirteenth”) marks the end of Iceland’s epic Christmas season. According to folk traditions and tales, Þrettándinn is a time of talking animals, aquatic metamorphoses, naked dancing, supernatural gifts, and precognitive dreams. It is also one of the four Icelandic holidays considered to have a special connection with the Huldufólk, "hidden" people: New Year's Eve, Thirteenth Night (January 6), Midsummer Night and Christmas night. 

 

There are many Icelandic folktales about elves and hidden people invading Icelandic farmhouses during Christmas and holding wild parties.  It is customary in Iceland to clean the house before Christmas, and to leave food for the huldufólk on Christmas.   On New Year's Eve, it is believed that the elves move to new locations, and Icelanders leave candles to help them find their way. On Midsummer Night, if you sit at a crossroads, elves may attempt to seduce you with food and gifts; there are grave consequences for being seduced by their offers, but great rewards for resisting.

This design by Carol A.L. Martin  was inspired by the elves or “hidden people” in the folklore of Iceland. Iceland’s landscape, filled with volcanoes, hot springs and avalanches and rocked by earthquakes, fuelled the imagination of ancient storytellers. Indeed, many Icelanders to this day, believe in elusive, mischievous and magical elves.

For more about the unique relationship of Icelanders with the lore of elves, click the fireworks on Thirteenth Night.