In Iceland and the Faroe Islands, elves are often called the Huldufólk (the hidden folk). They are mysterious and mischievous, at times acting helpful and at other times playing tricks. Tradition says they make their homes in the rocks that cover the island. For centuries, the wee folk lived in the dancing shadows of hearth fires as farmers entertained wide-eyed children with tales of shenanigans while warning them not to stray too far from home, lest they disappear into elfland, never to return.
In Iceland, elves, (‘alfar’ in Icelandic), are beings thought to be smaller than most humans. Elves are thought to live outdoors, and to rarely speak. While some Icelanders believe elves to be a very distinct group, many have come to see them as synonymous with another group of mythical beings known as the huldufólk, or Hidden People.
Like elves, huldufólk also live outdoors, making their homes in Iceland’s rocks and cliffs. According to a study done in 2006, 32% of Icelanders believe the existence of these beings to be possible, while 24% believe their existence is either likely or an outright certainty.
Celebrating elves and huldufólk is common in Iceland. For instance, it is customary for Icelanders to clean and leave food for elves as it’s believed they hold parties late at night. On New Year’s Eve, it is thought that huldufólk move to new locations. As a result, it’s traditional to leave candles out to help them find their way. Finally, Þrettándinn, or Thirteenth Night, is celebrated on January 6th and marks the last day of Christmas in Iceland. On this day, bonfires called álfabrennur, of Elf Fires, are commonly lit.
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