A unique and flourishing history and culture, affordability, and proximity to the UK all make Iceland a great place for a holiday destination. What better way to spend Christmas than in a place where the short days and long nights are compensated for by a community lit with literally thousands of Christmas lights.
Christmas Traditions in Iceland
December 23, known as Thorlaksmessa, is the day when the stores stay open until midnight for the last minute shoppers and families gather together to decorate their Christmas tree and clean the home for a day of celebration. Christmas itself is celebrated on the evening of December 24 when, at 6 pm sharp, people dressed in their finest clothes sit down with their families to enjoy a delicious Christmas feast. Presents are opened after dinner. If you can extend your stay until New Year’s Eve you’ll enjoy a special celebration in Iceland with community bonfires, house parties and fireworks that kick off at midnight and fill the night sky with fantastic colour.
Yuletide Lads Bring Gifts for Children
Rather than Santa Claus, children in Iceland are excited by visions of Window Peeper, Gully Gawk Bowl Licker, Pot Scraper, Door Slammer and others. These elf-like spirits are known as the Yuletide Lads, and live in the mountains until December 12, when, one at a time, they descend to the villages to create mischief. Each day, one of the thirteen Lads makes an appearance at the family home and leaves a little gift in the shoes of children who leave them on windowsills for that purpose.
Winter Activities Abound
With its cold sounding name, it may seem that Iceland freezes up and grinds to a halt in winter. In fact, temperatures are often warmer than in New York and outdoor activities carry on as normal. Go horseback riding, play golf, take glacier exploration tours, watch hot geysers erupt from the ground or take a therapeutic bath in a geothermally-heated outdoor pool during a blizzard. Snowmobiling is a popular activity, and Reykjavik with its location next to the sea makes a great place to embark on a whale watching expedition.
A Country Rich in Culture
Iceland has become a trendy location for a growing number of international entertainers, and along with its own artists and performers, provides a choice of symphony orchestras, opera, theaters and musicals. The Icelandic Symphony orchestra has a new home in a stunning concert hall in the Reykjavik harbour, which also welcomes many international acts. The many superb visual art museums and galleries in Reykjavik include the open air Reykjavik City Museum, where live actors portray the development of Reykjavik and Iceland, from their beginnings up to the present day. At Christmas the museum features displays depicting Christmas as it was in Iceland’s past. Walk from house to house within the museum and witness how Icelanders prepared for Christmas with the making of traditional laufabrauð (leaf bread) that is cut into decorative patterns before being fried, how wool was spun and knitted and how tallow was used to make candles, including three-branched “kings’ candles”.
Taking your Christmas holiday in Iceland is sure to give you an experience to remember.
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