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The Festive Lowdown – Christmas in Iceland

It´s that time of year again. It´s cold, dark and oh so merry with all those pretty lights! Reykjavik is as cute as ever and most of the country is already having a White Christmas. .


It´s that time of year again. It´s cold, dark and oh so merry with all those pretty lights! Reykjavik is as cute as ever and most of the country is already having a White Christmas. But, before it all beings around the world, we thought you might like to know a little about Icelandic Christmas traditions.

The Icelandic Christmas style

Most Icelanders celebrate Christmas and it includes the usual things one might expect. We put up Christmas trees, eat a lot of good food and exchange Christmas gifts. We also have some unusual traditions including 13 different Santa Clauses! Importantly however, we need to describe what ´s happening here in the coming days..

The 23rd of December is called Þorláksmessa (Mass of Saint Thorlak) and is usually spent in a panic, people running between stores trying to find the last Christmas gifts. People often go to parties on that day as well; fermented skate parties. It is an old Icelandic tradition to eat this smelly fish - the smell is actually so strong that it gets stuck in people‘s clothing, that‘s why you often run into people smelling like ammonia downtown on the 23rd. Be prepared!

Aðfangadagur and Jóladagur

Aðfangadagur is 24th and is the main day that we celebrate here. Christmas bells ring at 6 o‘clock officially announcing the beginning of the festivities. Most families spend time together and eat Christmas dinner on the evening of the 24th. The most popular dishes to serve are smoked pork loin and ptarmigan. After dinner people exchange gifts and possibly enjoy a sherry or two. On the 25th, Christmas day, people stay at home and eat more. In the evening there‘s a tradition to eat Hangikjöt (smoked lamb) along with green peas and white sauce. And then on 26th of December, people often go to a dinner party again.

Other things Icelanders eat during Christmas time is Mandarínur (clementines), Piparkökur (gingerbread), Laufabrauð (leaf bread) and konfekt (sweetscandy). I think the eating part is common in most countries...

If you‘re tired of eating yourself silly each year (seriously!?) you could always have an adventureous Christmas vacation instead. We have a lot of travelers visiting Iceland right now and they are getting to experience the Icelandic Christmas first hand! We are almost fully booked for all tours over the coming days so we reccommend planning the trip way ahead if your thinking of traveling to Iceland Christmas 2016 or New Years. Perhaps we´ll be sharing some Skate or ringing in the New Year with you this time next year!

So from all here at Extreme Iceland, Gleðileg jól!