My illustration is based on Icelandic accounts of Jólakötturinn, the Yule (Jól) Cat (köttur) – a monstrous feline with razor whiskers, blazing eyes and terrible claws.
The oldest written sources on the Yule Cat come from the 19th century. They mention those who do not get a new item of clothing for Yule were destined to become offerings for the Yule Cat. Farm workers needed to finish processing autumn wool before xmas. Those who took part in production would be rewarded with new clothes, but those who did not got nothing. And the scare story of a big, mean kitty out to get lazy workers provided a good incentive.
The tale of the Yule Cat became popularised after the publication of the Icelandic Yule poems written by Jóhannes úr Kötlum in 1932. Here the monstrous feline prowled the streets looking into people’s houses. Women had to spin new xmas clothes for their children or Jólakötturinn would come and sweep them away.