Professor Polack
Professor Polack, a distinguished computer science professor at the University of Mary Washington, possesses a deep curiosity for global exploration. Driven by a desire to broaden her understanding of different cultures and technological landscapes, she aspires to study abroad in countries across the world. Professor Polack's ambition to study abroad exemplifies her commitment to enriching both his own academic perspectives and the field of computer science as a whole.
View UMW Trip 2024
Iceland, where we spent weeks exploring the stunning landscapes of this Nordic island. One of the highlights of the trip was driving around the famous ring road, a 1,332-kilometer highway that circles the entire country. Along the way, we marveled at cascading waterfalls, rugged coastlines, and towering glaciers. We had the chance to immerse yourself in Icelandic culture, sampling traditional cuisine and learning about the country's history and geology. This unforgettable journey through Iceland's dramatic beauty left a lasting impression all of us.
View UMW Trip 2023
After leading a study abroad trip to Brazil and Argentina, where the students explored the wonders of the Amazon Rainforest, embarked on a captivating river cruise along the Amazon, and marveled at the breathtaking Iguazu Falls from both sides of the border, Professor Polack decided to create a photo book. With meticulous attention to detail, he curated a collection of photographs capturing the vibrant landscapes, fascinating wildlife, and joyous moments of the trip. I aimed to provide a visual narrative that would forever remind the students of their remarkable journey.

The Thirteen Icelandic Yule Lads

The Icelandic Yule Lads, known as “Jólasveinar” in Icelandic, are a mischievous bunch of characters who play a central role in Icelandic Christmas traditions. According to folklore, these Yule Lads are the sons of Gryla, a fearsome giantess, and her husband Leppaludi. Each year, they descend from their mountain home one by one in the thirteen nights leading up to Christmas, starting on December 12th and leaving one by one on Christmas Eve.

The Yule Lads are known for their playful antics and penchant for mischief, with each one having his own unique personality and habits. For example, there’s Stekkjastaur, who harasses sheep by trying to drink their milk, and Giljagaur, who hides in gullies waiting for an opportunity to sneak into the cowshed and steal milk. Then there’s Stufur, who has a fondness for stealing pans to scrape them for leftovers, and Þvörusleikir, who has a reputation for licking spoons. These are just a few examples of the Yule Lads’ antics, and their mischievous deeds vary from stealing food to playing pranks on unsuspecting humans.

Traditionally, Icelandic children would place their shoes by the window each night during the Yule Lad season, hoping to receive small gifts or treats if they had been good or a potato if they had been naughty. This tradition is similar to the concept of leaving out stockings for Santa Claus in other parts of the world. It’s said that the Yule Lads leave small gifts or treats for well-behaved children, while those who have been naughty may find a potato in their shoe instead.

Over time, the Yule Lads have become a beloved part of Icelandic Christmas celebrations, with their mischievous antics adding an element of fun and excitement to the holiday season. In recent years, they have also become popular symbols of Icelandic culture, appearing on everything from Christmas decorations to souvenirs for tourists.

Today, the Yule Lads continue to be celebrated in Iceland with various events and activities held in their honor throughout the holiday season. From Yule Lad-themed Christmas markets to theatrical performances and parades featuring the characters themselves, these mischievous fellows are a cherished part of Icelandic Christmas traditions, bringing joy and laughter to people of all ages. Whether you believe in their existence or simply enjoy the folklore surrounding them, the Yule Lads are an integral part of Icelandic culture and a beloved symbol of the holiday season.

I loved learning about the Icelandic Yule Lads from our glacier hiking guide, and so I decided to ask someone else from Iceland about the Yule Lads!