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Traditions and Feasts – Christmas and New Year

  • Christmas is an important tradition for most people and a big family celebration. ​
  • Christmas is celebrated to remember the birth of Jesus Christ, but similar feasts were held at the same time of year in pre-Christian times to celebrate the gradual re-emergence of daylight. ​
  • Advent is the month leading up to Christmas. People have many fun activities during Advent, including baking cookies, making Christmas handicrafts, and Christmas chocolates, and going to Christmas concerts. Brotherly love is prevalent and many donate to charity.
  • The 13 Icelandic Yule Lads come to town one by one, beginning 13 days before Christmas. The children believe that if they put a shoe on the windowsill, the Yule Lads will put a little present in it. ​
  • Thorlak’s mass is celebrated on 23 December. On that day, many people eat fermented skate, which has a very pungent smell. Shops are open until late and people strive to finish their housecleaning and shopping before Christmas. ​
  • Christmas Eve is on 24 December. Christmas starts at six o’clock that evening. Families eat Christmas dinner together before opening Christmas presents. Many attend mass. Charities often offer Christmas dinners for those who are alone at Christmas. ​
  • Christmas Day is 25 December and Boxing Day is on 26 December. Many people have the tradition of hosting or attending a Christmas party. ​
  • 31 December is the last day of the year. New year’s parties in homes, where fireworks are set off, are common. Parties in homes or bars often continue until the morning hours.


  • Easter is the Christian Church’s biggest feast. Easter celebrates the resurrection of Jesus. ​
  • For many, Easter is a welcome break after the long winter. Most have five continuous days off from work (from Thursday to Monday). ​
  • It is customary to eat chocolate eggs on Easter Sunday, which is usually very exciting for the children. ​
  • Schools are on holiday the week before Easter. ​
  • Many people go on ski trips, stay in a summer cottage or relax at home during the Easter holidays. ​

 Traditions and Feasts - Other Days

  • Bun Monday, Shrove Tuesday and Ash Wednesday are a fun tradition in Icelandic culture. These days have Catholic origins and are related to the start of Lent. ​
  • Bun Monday is celebrated on a Monday in February and includes heavy consumption of cream puffs. ​
  • On the following day, Shrove Tuesday, people eat as much salted lamb and bean soup as they can. ​
  • Ash Wednesday is the third day, when it is now the custom for children to dress up and sing for people in exchange for sweets. ​
  • Husband’s Day is in January. On that day, many wives give their husband a present and cook something good for him or bring him traditional Icelandic food. Husband’s Day marks the beginning of Þorri.​
  • Þorri is the name of an ancient Nordic month. During Þorri, feasts called “þorrablót” are held, where traditional Icelandic winter food, soured, smoked and/or salted, is served. ​
  • Woman’s Day is in February, during which wives often receive flowers and gifts from their spouse. ​
  • The First Day of Summer is in April. This is a holiday and a festive day for the children. There are small parades and entertainment for children in Reykjavik neighbourhoods and towns around the country. ​
  • The Icelandic National Day is 17 June. The day is celebrated in all Icelandic towns and villages with parades, entertainment and concerts.
  • The Bank Holiday Weekend is a major holiday weekend in late July/early August. The first Monday in August is a bank holiday. Big outdoor festivals are held all over the country during the weekend, the best known of which is the festival in the Westman Islands. ​

Traditions and Feasts – A Little Bit More

  • Many Icelandic municipalities hold a town festival in the summer. These are family festivals that are fun to visit. ​
  • You can go on day trips to festivals in towns near Reykjavik, such as Selfoss, Hveragerdi, Akranes and Borgarnes. ​
  • The annual Pride parade and Culture Night, celebrating Reykjavik’s anniversary, are held in Reykjavik in August. ​


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