There are a lot of Icelandic traditions that Icelanders celebrate through the year. Here are the most important:
Thorrablot was a sacrificial midwinter festival offered to the gods in pagan Iceland of the past. It was abolished when we stopped believing in Thor and Odinn and started to believe in Jesus. The timing for the festival coincides with the month of Thorri, according to the Old Icelandic calendar.
Pastryday is on Monday before fast. Spanking and pastry eating likely arrives in Iceland from Danish or Norwegian tradition in the later part of the 19th century. On this day children often spank their parents and friends and say Pastry and then they owe one. Families bake at home but the Icelandic bakeries bake about a million of them.
Shrove Tuesday is on Tuesday before fast, seven weeks before Easter. This day has stayed with the Icelandic people since Catholic time or since the 16th century. Icelanders are now protestant. In Iceland there is no carnival. This day many people eat salted meat and beans at home.
Öskudagur is an Icelandic holiday that came from Ash Wednesday. In Iceland people don’t put ash on their forehead. This day in Iceland is for the children and they dress up in costumes and sing songs for candy.
The Icelandic government decided in 1995 that November 16th should be the National Icelandic language day. On this day is the main thing that the nation's attention is on the position on Icelandic language.
Iceland is full of old traditions concerning the Christmas period. For example, there are no fewer than 13 Icelandic Yule lads, called jólasveinar. Their parents are Grýla, a mean old woman who drags off naughty children, and Leppalúði, who is not as mean as Grýla. They also have one cat named the Christmas cat or Jólaköttturinn as it is called in Iceland. Almost every child in Iceland puts its shoe in their window sills thirteen nights before the 24th of December. Every night, one Yule lad visits each child and leaves a gift or a potato, depending on the child's behaviour throughout the year and the day that just passed. In the old days the Yule lads were bad. People were afraid of them because they did damage to people belongings. Today their good and give children gifts.
Icelanders take their Christmas decorating very seriously. Everyone decorates. The most common decorations are the Christmas trees. Another common Christmas decoration is the Advent light. There are two different types of Advent, both very popular. One is the Advent wreath, which has four candles, one for each Sunday of the Advent. The other type is the classic Scandinavian one.
December 23rd is a special day in Iceland. Almost everybody go somewhere or invite friends and families to their house to eat skate. The skate smells awful but many people like it. It is not necessary to eat skate but it is a tradition so a lot of people do it. In our hometown you can go on almost every restaurant between 11 and 1 to get a skate. For the kids and the ones who don’t want to eat the skate there is Pizza.
On Christmas Eve Families get together, enjoy good food and exchange presents. It is Iceland’s longest holiday; everything is closed from noon on Christmas Eve until December 27th. The family gets together in the evening 24th and that is when presents are exchanged. Many people go to church at 6 o’clock and after that they come home, eat very good food and then open the presents. The next two days everyone goes to Christmas parties and meets with grandparents, uncles, aunts, cousins and friends.
Written by Ljósbrá Dögg and María Hjördís