Christmas in Iceland

Iceland is a Nordic country between the North Atlantic and the Arctic Ocean. It is the most sparsely populated country in Europe.

Reykjavík is the capital and the largest city of Iceland.

Christmas in Iceland

Christmas Celebrations in Iceland :

In Iceland, Christmas is known as ‘Yule’ or ‘Jól’ and it also includes New Year celebrations.

In Iceland St. Thorlakur’s Day (Þorláksmessa) is celebrated two days before Christmas, i.e., on December 23 in rememberance of ‘St. Thorlakur Thorhallsson’ (Þorlákur Þórhallsson), a priest in Iceland in the 12th century.

It is on this day that people decorate their Christmas trees. The day is also the biggest shopping day in Iceland as people run to the stores in a frenzy for last minute Christmas shopping.

Christmas in Iceland

Icelanders celebrate 13 days of Christmas i.e, from Christmas Eve on 24th December to January 6 (Twelfth Night)

In Iceland, the main celebration of Christmas starts on Christmas Eve which is locally known as Aðfangadagur. The celebrations start at 6:00 pm in evening and it is the time when family gets together and it is the time when presents are exchanged. It is also the time when people either go to church.

On the Christmas Day (Yule), people go to church and then make a Christmas meal known as Hangikjöt which is a leg of roast lamb. Sometimes ‘Rjúpa’ (Rock Ptarmigan a sea bird) or ‘Laufabrauð’ (leaf bread) is also eaten.

People of Iceland celebrate the next day of Christmas as Boxing Day meant for visiting friends and family.

The next main celebration is the New Year’s Eve which is locally known as Gamlárskvöld or Nýársdagur. It is the most important nights of the year in Iceland and there are several magical traditions that are supposed to happen on that night.

Gamlárskvöld Bonfire - Iceland

Bonfires have been lit on Gamlárskvöld since the late 1700s. People also have big fireworks displays to bring in the New Year. This is called ‘sprengja út árið’ or ‘blowing out the year’.

Six days later, i.e., January 6 (Twelfth Night) is celebrated as the last day of Christmas. The occasion is marked by various fireworks displays and bonfires.

One of the pecular part of Christmas celebrations in Iceland is coming of Yule Lads also known as Jólasveinar (the Icelandic version of Father Christmas/Santa Claus). Icelanders have not one, but thirteen Santas, or Yule Lads.

These are magical people who come from the mountains in Iceland and each day from December 12th to Yule Eve.

They leave little presents for children in shoes placed on the windowsill. If children have been naughty, they might leave a potato or little message telling them to be good.

Icelandic Yule Lads Photo

Also See : Photos of Icelandic Yule Lads

Names of 13 Yule Lads :

  • Stekkjarstaur – Gimpy
  • Giljagaur – Gully Imp
  • Stúfur – Itty Bitty
  • Þvörusleikir – Pot Scraper Licker
  • Pottasleikir – Pot Licker
  • Askasleikir – Bowl Licker
  • Hurðaskellir – Door Slammer
  • Skyrgámur – Skyr Gobbler (Skyr, an Icelandic yoghurt)
  • Bjúgnakrækir – Sausage Snatcher
  • Gluggagægir – Window Peeper
  • GáttaÞefur – Doorway Sniffer
  • Ketkrókur – Meat Hooker
  • Kertasníkir – Candle Beggar

Christmas is taken very seriously in Iceland. The whole house is cleaned for the festival, everyone gets something new to wear, people buy the best food, decorate the house inside and outside and bake hundreds of cookies.

Grand Christmas celebrations take place in Reykjavík. Apart from that notable Christmas celebrations also take place in other populated cities and towns of Iceland like Kópavogur, Hafnarfjörður, Akureyri, Keflavík, Garðabær, Mosfellsbær, etc.

We wish all readers Merry Christmas 2016 and Happy New Year 2017 !!!