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December 22: Doorway Sniffer comes to town, sniffing out your Snowflake Bread

By Staff

  • Gáttaþefur Doorway Sniffer has a huge nose which he uses to sniff out traditional Icelandic Laufabrauð, and other Christmas delicacies. Photo/Halldór Baldursson

The eleventh Yule Lad to arrive in town is Gáttaþefur, Doorway Sniffer. His main physical characteristic is his unusually large nose, which he uses to sniff out his favorite food: Icelandic Laufabrauð. According to legend Gáttaþefur could smell leaf bread for miles. 

laufabraudsskurdur.png

Snowflake bread Examples Laufabrauð-patterns. 

Laufabrauð is sometimes called Snowflake bread or Leaf Bread is a traditional Christmas treat. Leaf bread is a wafer thin flat cake, usually the size of a regular dining plate, decorated with carefully cut out geometric patterns and fried in oil. The origin of Laufabrauð is not clear, but the oldest written reference to Laufabrauð date to the early 1700s. At which time it seems already to have been very common.

Most scholars believe that Laufabrauð originated as a way to economize on flour during the centuries when poor trading connections meant Icelanders suffered from a shortage of wheat and other imported foodstuffs. During the cooler temperatures following the Medieval Warm Period, when Iceland was settled, no grain was grown in Iceland, making bread and any other foods made from grains into a luxury. The wafer thin Laufabrauð was therefore an expensive luxury to Icelanders.

Read more: The mystery, origins and history of the strange Icelandic Yule lads

Having an unsightly, "doltish and gross" man with an enormous nose sneaking into your home to steal these treats was obviously something which would have ruined Christmas for any farm household!

Eleventh was Door Sniffer,
a doltish lad and gross.
He never got a cold, yet had
a huge, sensitive nose.

He caught the scent of lace bread
while leagues away still
and ran toward it weightless
as wind over dale and hill.

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