A huge and monstrous cat from Icelandic folklore, who eats people who have not received new clothes before Christmas eve. Horrific.
You all know the Yule Cat
And that Cat was huge indeed.
People didn't know where he came from
Or where he went.
He opened his glaring eyes wide,
The two of them glowing bright.
It took a really brave man
To look straight into them.
His whiskers, sharp as bristles,
His back arched up high.
And the claws of his hairy paws
Were a terrible sight.
He gave a wave of his strong tail,
He jumped and he clawed and he hissed.
Sometimes up in the valley,
Sometimes down by the shore.
He roamed at large, hungry and evil
In the freezing Yule snow.
In every home
People shuddered at his name.
If one heard a pitiful "meow"
Something evil would happen soon.
Everybody knew he hunted men
But didn't care for mice.
He picked on the very poor
That no new garments got
For Yule - who toiled
And lived in dire need.
From them he took in one fell swoop
Their whole Yule dinner
Always eating it himself
If he possibly could.
Hence it was that the women
At their spinning wheels sat
Spinning a colorful thread
For a frock or a little sock.
Because you mustn't let the Cat
Get hold of the little children.
They had to get something new to wear
From the grownups each year.
And when the lights came on, on Yule Eve
And the Cat peered in,
The little children stood rosy and proud
All dressed up in their new clothes.
Some had gotten an apron
And some had gotten shoes
Or something that was needed
- That was all it took.
For all who got something new to wear
Stayed out of that pussy-cat's grasp
He then gave an awful hiss
But went on his way.
Whether he still exists I do not know.
But his visit would be in vain
If next time everybody
Got something new to wear.
Now you might be thinking of helping
Where help is needed most.
Perhaps you'll find some children
That have nothing at all.
Perhaps searching for those
That live in a lightless world
Will give you a happy day
And a Merry, Merry Yule.
The concept of not having new clothes comes from the tradition of farmers using the threat of being eaten by the Yule Cat as an incentive for the workers to finish processing the wool before Christmas. When the work was completed the farmer gave his staff new Christmas clothes. This idea was taken and used against children like a 'naughty or nice' thing.
The Yule Cat is one of several Christmas monsters including the Yule Lads. They all live in a cave and come to the towns of Iceland for thirteen days before Christmas to terrorise the folks with threats of theft, pranks and, in the case of the Cat, being eaten.
Of course, theses days it's all about fun. The Yule Lads look a lot like Father Christmas and people are pleased to see them.
The Prose Edda is held at Iceland's National Museum along with other primary sources about the Yule Cat and Christmas folklore.