Oh, it’s Christmas time again! What a wonderful time of the year with so much to celebrate regardless of where you are located.  Christmas celebrations take place all over the world, with such a variety of traditions, resulting from national cultures, historical events, folklore, and religious beliefs. In Iceland, Christmas is a bit different.

While some parts of the globe boast the benefits of tropical temperatures, many others celebrate this holiday in the snow.  Iceland is one of those countries, known for its snow cover and frigid temperatures, gifts of warm, wooly blankets are perfect for holiday sharing.  These Icelandic wool blankets are not only beautiful but practical as well, and often make a great decorative addition to your home decor. And, since they’re “one size fits all”, you can’t go wrong. Wool sweaters are ideal gifts too, as they can be worn as an outer layer in calm winter weather or as a jacket while shoveling snow or when running those seemingly never-ending errands at Christmas time or any time of the year.

What are Icelandic Christmas traditions?

While you won’t find many “hallmark” moments here, you will find Christmas trees, blankets of snow, gifts, and plenty of food...oh, and did I mention folklore? Icelanders have a traditional folklore element in their festivities that makes this holiday event very interesting.  The Christmas season begins on December 11 and continues until January 6 each year. This 26-day period is the darkest time of the year in Iceland but some of that lack of light is offset by the beautiful array of Christmas lights found everywhere, the soft blanket of snow that is generally on the ground, and on a clear night, the Northern Lights create a beauty seen in few other places on the planet!  You’ll even find brightly-lit Christmas trees, many of which have been imported since Iceland is not known for its trees.

What do Icelanders eat for Christmas?

For Icelanders, Christmas begins at 6 PM on Christmas Eve, with some families gathering at church and other families having a meal when the bell rings. A traditional Icelandic Christmas meal might consist of traditional smoked lamb, sides of peas, corn, cabbage, beans, gravy, jam, etc., and a thin-crusted, crispy and beautifully decorated flatbread. Of course, you’ll find a myriad of sweet treats gracing those Icelandic Christmas meal tables!

Gifts are generally opened on Christmas Eve around these festivities. Some of the gifts popular in Iceland are books and warm clothing items and blankets.  The gifts of warm clothing and blankets not only serve to be useful in this cold environment but also protect children from some of the antics of the Yule Cat found in their Christmas folk traditions. They even have a newer celebration around Christmas time -- the ugly sweater party.  This party involves eating some yummy Icelandic treats and drinking non-alcoholic beverages, enjoying the community and, of course, the contest (usually with prizes) for the ugliest sweater! Beautiful, warm and wooly sweaters, like those available through Icewear, are generally the dress code for other Christmas meals and celebrations. Icelanders are quite proud of the unique wool produced by Icelandic sheep.  This wool is not only very warm but also light-weight and water repellent, making it perfect for almost any winter or cold-weather activity.

How many Santa Clauses are there in Iceland?

One of the most interesting folklore traditions is that of the 13 Yule Lads and the Yule Cat. The 13 Yule Lads basically comprise the “Santa” that many other countries celebrate.  It is said that one of the lads visits the children each night. The children place a shoe on the window sill before they go to bed. The Yule Lad places a sweet treat into that shoe if the child has behaved well.  For those children who haven’t behaved well, a potato is placed into the shoe as a reminder to behave. The folklore story goes on to describe some interesting mischievous activities of these 13 Yule Lads and their Yule Cat. You can find statues of these interesting and mischievous Yule Lads here.

Christmas in Iceland -- you’ll find the warmth of the season in their traditions as well as warmth and protection in their woolen clothing and blankets!