Merry Christmas and Happy Feasting! (JB)


julianabjornsdottir_dlTomorrow is Christmas Eve. And in Iceland, that means Christmas has arrived.

In Iceland, the holiday season is a joyous one and a busy one too. We spend the whole month of December preparing for one glorious evening and a day of family gatherings with an odd assembly of salty delicacies, chocolates and a non-alcoholic beverage called 'Christmas ale' or Jólaöl.

Jólaöl is a mix of Appelsín soda (an orange soda) and the sweetened Malt drink; it’s a delicious combination. It’s worth mentioning that when mixing the two together, never start with the Malt. I made the mistake of doing so recently and it was like an erupting volcano when I added the orange soda.

The salty delicacies continue to be popular among locals, in particular hangikjöt or (smoked lamb) served with white gravy and peas, yes, cold peas. The combination is a delicacy to many (not me) and its biggest fans dread the holiday season for one reason and one reason only: it’s the time to feast on just about everything that has bathed in salt and inhaled smoke.

Of course, the chocolate part is inevitable: chocolate pieces filled with rum crème, marzipan, toffee, banana cream, strawberry cream and even liquorice filling.

Oddly enough, on the day before Christmas, an old and rather smelly tradition continues to thrive despite the odorous stink. I have no idea how skata, (skate) is cooked  but what I do know is that it stinks up the place wherever it is cooked and it is foul. Well, to me at least. I even go as far as to avoid restaurants that serve the meal on this day, Þorláksmessa, or St. Thorlakur’s day.

But even though Christmas isn’t officially until tomorrow, I always feel today, December 23, is an institution in the Icelandic holiday tradition. This is the day to be jolly and wonder the streets of the center, whether it’s in Akranes or Reykjavík, just to see people and enjoy the atmosphere.

The shops are open until 11 pm tonight, strange creatures known as the 13 Yule lads roam the streets to find children to greet.

I love to visit the city center on this day but the only downside is that I can’t really bring my dog, Emma. So she gets to rest at home while we have a taste of pre-Christmas glory.

So if you are in Iceland tonight, go out and celebrate. Participate in the festive mood and be merry with the jolly crowds that fill the streets with life.

Bathe in the glorious glitter of lights that brings so much joy to our hearts in this darkest time of the year. Drink hot chocolate and don’t hesitate to ask for extra cream. Eat the gingerbread cookies you worked so hard at painting and buy yourself a little something.

For some, including my parents and sisters, tonight is going to be the night to decorate the Christmas tree and make it light up the living room with hope and love. And tomorrow, read a good book and enjoy the quietude before the clock strikes 6 pm and Christmas arrives.

I don’t know about you, but I can’t wait. I love Christmas and even though I am the person who never manages to write Christmas cards and send them, and who always buys presents at the last minute, I love the holidays like the fictional character named Mr. Clark Griswold (minus the insane outdoor lighting)and therefore take pleasure in wishing you all the merriest of Christmas eve.

To me the holiday season is not celebrated as a religious holiday. I simply love Christmas because it is a very special time of year when we take time out to care about each other and spend time with people we’d like to see more often but see too seldom.

It’s a time to celebrate life in the spirit of goodness and kindness.

So tonight, I shall put on a big smile and squeeze the zest out of life like there’s no tomorrow!

Júlíana Björnsdóttir –

Views expressed here are the author's own and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of Iceland Review.