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Christmas Traditions

What's different about Christmas in Iceland? Oh, you have no idea...

December 11, 2019

ua0HKR9O

Christmas Traditions

What's different about Christmas in Iceland? Oh, you have no idea...

December 11, 2019

For locals, Christmas in Iceland is a most welcome reprieve from the perennial dark. Visitors will find many of the Icelandic Christmas traditions amusing and often quite unusual. Where to begin? There’s the Christmas Cat, a lot of great food, a little bit of truly bad food, way too many fireworks, bonfires, a “book flood,” and an endless amount of Santa Clauses (we call them Yule Lads). The city comes alive at Christmastime and walking around downtown you are bound to run into some Christmas music, quirky Christmas characters, and a healthy dose of holiday cheer. Welcome to Christmastime in Iceland!

Christmas with the Lads

The Yule Lads are Iceland’s version of Santa Claus and we have 13 of them! More santas equals more gifts, right? Icelandic kids get a little treat from each of them when they come into town from the mountains, from December 12 until Christmas Eve. In older folklore they used to be mischievous tricksters, but nowadays, they leave gifts in children’s shoes if they behave well. If they act out, they’ve got a potato coming their way.
The main feast takes place on Christmas Eve at precisely six o’clock. Parents beware though, as the Christmas Cat will eat your children if they receive no new clothing before Christmas. It’s one of the weirder Christmas lore out there but most people just make sure to be wearing at least a fresh pair of socks to stay out of the Christmas kitty’s maw.

Food, Glorious Food!

The Christmas meal is the most special meal of the year, and it has historical connotations. Not many decades have passed since Iceland was a poor country where feasts were few and far between. Hangikjöt (smoked lamb) was the traditional Christmas meal while rjúpa (ptarmigan) was a treat for the poorer folk. Today, it’s considered a delicacy, as you have to catch your own or make a deal with a hunter if you want some. In addition, some holiday tables feature staples such as reindeer, turkey, and hamborgarhryggur (glazed rack of ham). Accompanying this is jólaöl (Christmas ale) – a glorious drink made by mixing together orange-flavoured Appelsín and malt-flavoured Malt, a couple of sodas produced in Iceland.

Let’s Get Cultural

December in Iceland is best experienced by going all in, so we encourage you to get a taste of the culture. The annual book market, the Christmas Book Flood, will hit Reykjavík this December as it does every year, as books are one of the most popular Christmas presents in the country. Authors and publishers race to publish the most exciting books of the year during the December season, so get a book to enjoy if you really want to experience an Icelandic Christmas (best enjoyed snuggling with a cup of hot cocoa, of course). Also, take time to drop in on Christmas concerts, which Icelanders flock to each year. For many, they are just as essential to Christmas as Christmas ale.

New Year, Old Us

Gamlárskvöld (Literal translation: old year evening) in Iceland is a spectacle to behold. We Icelanders go crazy as we blow up over 600 tonnes of fireworks each year, which look spectacular coupled with the blacked-out sky and snowy ground. Before that, the whole nation sits in front of a TV screen. Everyone tunes in to Áramótaskaupið, a “roast-style” comedy show where the events of the past year are remembered in a humorous light. It is watched by more than 70% of the nation every year, so try and get yourself in front of a TV before midnight. You (probably) won’t understand anything but at least you can say you partook in this cultural curiosity. Make sure to head out for the New Year’s bonfires all over town (and dress according to the weather). New Year’s Eve is, of course, the party night of the year, so grab some Icelandic beer or a bottle of Brennivín (also known as Black Death) and head into town!

New Years Firework by www.dreamtime.com
OB 20120124 103

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ua0HKR9O

Christmas Traditions

What's different about Christmas in Iceland? Oh, you have no idea...

December 11, 2019

ua0HKR9O

Christmas Traditions

What's different about Christmas in Iceland? Oh, you have no idea...

December 11, 2019

For locals, Christmas in Iceland is a most welcome reprieve from the perennial dark. Visitors will find many of the Icelandic Christmas traditions amusing and often quite unusual. Where to begin? There’s the Christmas Cat, a lot of great food, a little bit of truly bad food, way too many fireworks, bonfires, a “book flood,” and an endless amount of Santa Clauses (we call them Yule Lads). The city comes alive at Christmastime and walking around downtown you are bound to run into some Christmas music, quirky Christmas characters, and a healthy dose of holiday cheer. Welcome to Christmastime in Iceland!

Christmas with the Lads

The Yule Lads are Iceland’s version of Santa Claus and we have 13 of them! More santas equals more gifts, right? Icelandic kids get a little treat from each of them when they come into town from the mountains, from December 12 until Christmas Eve. In older folklore they used to be mischievous tricksters, but nowadays, they leave gifts in children’s shoes if they behave well. If they act out, they’ve got a potato coming their way.
The main feast takes place on Christmas Eve at precisely six o’clock. Parents beware though, as the Christmas Cat will eat your children if they receive no new clothing before Christmas. It’s one of the weirder Christmas lore out there but most people just make sure to be wearing at least a fresh pair of socks to stay out of the Christmas kitty’s maw.

Food, Glorious Food!

The Christmas meal is the most special meal of the year, and it has historical connotations. Not many decades have passed since Iceland was a poor country where feasts were few and far between. Hangikjöt (smoked lamb) was the traditional Christmas meal while rjúpa (ptarmigan) was a treat for the poorer folk. Today, it’s considered a delicacy, as you have to catch your own or make a deal with a hunter if you want some. In addition, some holiday tables feature staples such as reindeer, turkey, and hamborgarhryggur (glazed rack of ham). Accompanying this is jólaöl (Christmas ale) – a glorious drink made by mixing together orange-flavoured Appelsín and malt-flavoured Malt, a couple of sodas produced in Iceland.

Let’s Get Cultural

December in Iceland is best experienced by going all in, so we encourage you to get a taste of the culture. The annual book market, the Christmas Book Flood, will hit Reykjavík this December as it does every year, as books are one of the most popular Christmas presents in the country. Authors and publishers race to publish the most exciting books of the year during the December season, so get a book to enjoy if you really want to experience an Icelandic Christmas (best enjoyed snuggling with a cup of hot cocoa, of course). Also, take time to drop in on Christmas concerts, which Icelanders flock to each year. For many, they are just as essential to Christmas as Christmas ale.

New Year, Old Us

Gamlárskvöld (Literal translation: old year evening) in Iceland is a spectacle to behold. We Icelanders go crazy as we blow up over 600 tonnes of fireworks each year, which look spectacular coupled with the blacked-out sky and snowy ground. Before that, the whole nation sits in front of a TV screen. Everyone tunes in to Áramótaskaupið, a “roast-style” comedy show where the events of the past year are remembered in a humorous light. It is watched by more than 70% of the nation every year, so try and get yourself in front of a TV before midnight. You (probably) won’t understand anything but at least you can say you partook in this cultural curiosity. Make sure to head out for the New Year’s bonfires all over town (and dress according to the weather). New Year’s Eve is, of course, the party night of the year, so grab some Icelandic beer or a bottle of Brennivín (also known as Black Death) and head into town!

New Years Firework by www.dreamtime.com
OB 20120124 103

The RE blog

RE63
RE_Landmannalaugar
JRJ05671_Ketchup_blackdiamondbeach
ua0HKR9O
vaskur
Golden-Circle-and-Fontana-Steam-bath
Fjaðrárgljúfur
Into the Glacier
Eistnaflug_EydisKlaraThorleifsdottir
iStock-1151150610
RE63
JRJ09685-min Dress the Part
Nature Pool
Thorsmork Panorama
BlueLagoon1
Skógafoss waterfall Iceland hero mynd
RE05-Reykjavik Panorama
kirkjufell-12x7
Reykjanes

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