This Christmas, I wanted to write about a couple of secondary characters in last year’s A Cop for Christmas: Sam and Jackie.
Sam Wilson was the ex-boyfriend of Steve Coleman, and he was kind of a sad, lonely person, whose life nearly fell apart when his grandfather had a heart attack in a blizzard, and help couldn’t get there in time. Fortunately, Steve was able to drive them to the highway through the storm, and they made it to the hospital.
They spent the night at Jackie Montgomery’s house. Jackie is an older woman who knew Steve’s mother in college, and she’s been a close friend of the family since Steve was born. She’s a bit like Patrick Dennis’s Auntie Mame—a woman who believes in living life to the fullest, who travels the world in search of adventure and has the financial means to do so. In A Cop for Christmas, she immediately took Sam under her wing, drawn to his insecurity.
As A Viking for Yule begins, Sam and Jackie have been traveling through eight different countries in as many months, and Sam is a bit more self-confident. He’s been to baths in Japan and Russia, experienced an earthquake in Indonesia, and had monkeys steal food from his pockets in Bali. But nothing has prepared him for a week in Iceland with Arnar Thorsteinsson as a guide….
The Christmas season in Iceland is still called Jól—Yule—as it was before the country was Christianized, and many of the popular traditions still have a very pagan feel to them. At this time of year, the sun doesn’t rise until nearly 11:30 a.m. and sets around 3:00 p.m. The shortest day (the winter solstice, December 21st) is just four hours long. So most of the day is dark. But the largest city in Iceland, Reykjavik, is lit up like a Christmas tree!
Like other cities in Europe, Reykjavik and the neighboring Hafnarfjördur have Christmas markets where you can go from booth to booth, buying Christmas ornaments and decorations—many locally made—and the hot chocolate Sam and Arnar are so fond of. Akureyri in the north also has year-round Christmas shops.
But my favorite thing is (are?) the Yule Lads. Since about the twelfth century, and possibly dating back before then, Icelanders have warned their children that, if they’re not good, the troll, Gryla, will scoop them up in her sack and take them to her cave to devour them. She is aided in this by the Christmas Cat. Less sinister, however, are her thirteen children—the Yule Lads.
The Yule Lads are trolls, but they’re more mischievous than evil. Each one has a particular vice. Window Peeper looks into windows to spy on people and steal what he sees. Door Slammer stomps around your house in the night and slams doors, to prevent you from getting any sleep. If you can’t find your… *ahem*… sausage, it’s probably because Sausage Swiper absconded with it, when you weren’t looking.
If children are particularly good, however, the Yule Lads just might leave some candy behind for them.
Each lad comes to town on a different day of the yule season and remains thirteen days before departing. So, for example, Sheep-Cote Clod (who steals the milk from sheep) shows up on the 12th and remains until the 25th. His brother, Gully Gawk (who hides in gullies and watches people), arrives the next night, and stays until December 26th. The last to arrive is Candle-Stealer on the 24th, which is the night Icelanders typically open all of their gifts. He remains until January 6th (Epiphany).
The Reykjavik Art Museum-Hafnarhús put out a booklet called Christmas Creatures in Reykjavik, which gives brief descriptions of the Yule Lads and Gryla, and shows the locations of them on a map. If you go to these spots during the yule season, you can see animated projections of them on the sides of buildings.
AFTER SAM’S GRANDFATHER nearly died in a blizzard one year ago, Sam has panic attacks in snow storms. So where does his friend Jackie propose they spend the holidays, as the last stop on their trip around the world?
Iceland. Of course.
But there’s more in Iceland than snow. When Arnar, a handsome Icelandic man, offers to escort Sam on a several-day tour of the beautiful countryside, they soon find themselves drawn to each other. But Arnar is firmly rooted in his native soil, and Sam has to return to the US in a week to care for his ailing grandfather.
Suddenly, yule can’t last nearly long enough.
NOTE: Though this novel includes characters from “A Cop for Christmas,” it is a standalone adventure. It isn’t necessary to read “A Cop for Christmas” first.