The Huldufolk, literally meaning “hidden people,” are a group of elusive elves, goblins, and trolls found in much of Icelandic folklore. They are said to live in an invisible dimension in houses built in the cracks of rocks, caves, and in the sides of cliffs. They can make themselves visible to humans, particularly on certain days of the year.
The Huldufolk are particularly human-like in their personalities. They have to work for their livelihood, take part in drinking, and die like all mortals. They are not known to be particularly good or evil. They are never malicious, but sometimes push their moral agenda harshly. For example, some stories tell of Huldufolk trying to seduce humans, punishing those who succumb to their seduction, and rewarding those who are able to resist it.
Stories of Huldufolk are still prominent in Iceland today. They are a big part of holiday festivities; New Year’s Eve, Christmas night, and Twelfth Night (January 6th), as well as Midsummer Night. On these holidays, it is customary to leave food and candles out for the Huldufolk. Some even set up small houses for them to live in (pictured right), reminiscent of leprechaun traps children make for St. Patrick’s Day.
What do you call those long strings of colored and white lights that appear in December? We Americans tend to call them what they are: ‘holiday lights,’ or ‘Christmas lights’ or — if you’re like my Dad, trying to untangle them every year — some unjolly things before the spiked eggnog kicks in.
These terms are clear, but they don’t even hint at the real purpose of lights-on-a-string: magic! It’s pure enchantment to see thousands of tiny sparkles illuminating trees, houses, yards and towns. Across the pond, our British neighbors call them “fairy lights.” We at FairyRoom approve.
If you still need to add some glow to your season, here are a few of our favorite fairy lights, all from Etsy.
Moon and Star Paper Lanterns: for the holidays, and beyond!
Origami Lights Made with Japanese Paper: these remind us of strings of beautifully-wrapped gifts.
Do you have a favorite here, or elsewhere? Share opinions and links with us in the comments, below.