Icelandic Culture
10 December 2019

Christmas traditions in Iceland

Every country has its own sets of Christmas traditions and Iceland, of course, has its own. They mostly revolve around food and books. And fireworks. So, check out this fun list of Iceland Christmas traditions.
rice pudding

Rice Pudding with candy almond

For many, there is no Christmas unless the almond rice pudding is eaten. The rice pudding is just like people know it (not to be confused with risalamand though). However, one of the family members will get a candy almond which signifies they will get the Christmas prize. 
The prize differs between families. Sometimes it is made sure that a child wins the award, but usually, it is something the whole family can enjoy over Christmas, such as a board game.
Christmas food: ham

Boxing Day dinner party

For larger families, there is a must to spread the Christmas gatherings over the three major Christmas days. For some, that means they have to hold and/or attend a Christmas party on Boxing day. By that time, people are often pretty tired after having spent two days eating and drinking (the amount of drinks drunk differs though). 

Giving books

One of the most popular things to give for Christmas is a book, and specifically an Icelandic book. Majority of all literature is published before Christmas, so the list of books to give is pretty long. Crime novels have been the most popular in the last few decades with the three biggest ones Arnaldur Indriðason, Yrsa Sigurðardóttir and Ragnar Jónasson having sold over 20 million copies of their books worldwide. 
To make it a little bit easier for people to choose, a small booklet is released before Christmas which includes most of all books released and information about them.
fireworks

Spending vast amount of money on fireworks

When Quentin Tarantino spent New Year’s in Iceland, he said on a talk show after he went back to the US that the experience was a bit like being in a war zone. 
Icelanders love their fireworks. Some people who have quit smoking save all the money they would have spent on cigarettes and buy fireworks instead.
Fireworks sale is the primary way of the ICE-SAR to collect money for their operation. Still, it is based purely on a volunteer work basis.
You can take part in these Icelandic traditions by buying fireworks from the ICE-SAR, we work with them if you get lost in the wilderness!