It is that time again, the happiest time of the year – apart from your wedding day, of course! Or combine the two and have a Holiday Wedding in Iceland; can you imagine how magical that would be? This month’s blog will familiarize you with Icelandic Christmas traditions: holiday cuisine, traditional holiday decorations, and holiday craft beers. We’ve also provided you a little insight on the most popular Icelandic New Year’s tradition.
Icelandic Traditional Holiday Cuisine
The most common Christmas dinner feast for the locals of Iceland is either hangikjöt (smoked lamb), with uppfstúf a white flour-based sauce; or Hamborgarhrygg (smoked pork loin) with a creamy red wine or mushroom sauce. Both main course dishes are paired with caramelized potatoes, green peas, picked red cabbage, and laufabrauð (leaf bread). It is also common for some homes to serve rjúpa (quail); while other will serve deer or turkey. In recent years, Beef Wellington has become popular. If you are interested in making your own Icelandic Holiday Dinner, you can get everything you need HERE!
If you truly want to experience authentic Icelandic holiday cuisine, you’ll need to be braver than us and try Skata on the 23rd of December – known as Þorláksmessa (Thorlac’s Mass) in Iceland. Skata is fermented skate, a ray-like, cartilaginous fish which excretes uric acid through the skin. The skate is left to ferment, which results in a strong ammonia odour, and in turn helps preserve the fish. Skate is served in numerous households, although most prefer to prepare skate in the garage or outside due to the very strong smell. The fermented Icelandic skate is actually very beneficial for your digestive system. Due to the strong smell and taste skate is usually served with ice cold Brennivín. Brennivín is Iceland’s signature snaps, a drink marketed for the brave and adventurous, which traditionally was known as Icelandic moonshine.
Traditional Icelandic Holiday Decorations
A lot of the Icelandic holiday decorations are highly influenced by the surrounding Nordic countries. Common decorations that can be found in Icelandic homes include, red hearts, pine trees and branches, and decorations made from straw. Many homes will also honor the Icelandic Santa Clauses (the 13 Yule Lads) along with their troll mother and father, and their pet cat.
Almost every home in Iceland will have an Advent wreath. Advent wreaths include four candles, which represent the four Sundays leading to Christmas. As each of the Sundays pass, a new candle is lit, thus by the last Sunday before Christmas, all four candles are aglow. Another common Icelandic candle decoration is the counting down candle which originates from Denmark. The tall candle is marked from 1 to 24 and is lit every day to mark the passing of a new day until the December 24th. In many windows you may also find wooden menorahs, with seven slots for candles or lights. These originated in Sweden and were used to demarcate the pathway to the church for Christmas worshipers.
When it comes to Christmas trees, a majority of Icelandic homes will purchase fresh trees. Many tree lots are affiliated with the children’s hospital or the Icelandic emergency rescue services, and the proceeds from the sales are donated to theses charities. In areas where coniferous forests are prevalent, families will go out a few days prior to Christmas to cut down their own tree. The Icelandic tradition is to decorate the tree on Christmas Eve and leave the tree up until January 6th, the end of Icelandic Christmas.
While visiting Iceland you can find a numerous amount of Christmas stores. These stores are operated all year long. Buying an Icelandic Christmas ornament is a popular keepsake to take home. Our favorite one is in the north; if your find yourself up that way, you just have to visit it!
Icelandic Craft Beer
This year has a record-breaking number of holiday craft beers; 88 to be exact! Not all are brewed in Iceland, but a majority (60 this year) were. Statistically the first snowfall in Iceland occurs in the beginning of November, which is when the Christmas beers begin hitting the taps in bars and the shelves of the liquor stores. Tuborg, a very popular Danish beer brewed in Iceland, kicks off their Christmas beer sale in a special way by driving an 18-wheeler, decorated in Christmas lights, down the main street of Laugavegur located in the city center (Reykjavík). The streets are usually full of people ready to start of the holiday season with a drink of their favorite holiday beer.
Holiday Wedding in Iceland
Do you plan on having an Iceland Wedding or an Iceland Elopement during the holiday season? Here are a few things that you should know:
There could possibly be an upcharge for services and vendors such as the celebrant, photographer/videographer, and the hair and makeup team. This is due to the holiday season. Icelanders are quite festive people and attend a lot of Christmas holidays and value the time they spend with their families over the holidays.
Another thing to keep in mind is government offices are often closed or have very limited hours and staff during the holiday season. Arriving in Iceland a few days earlier may be required to ensure you can meet with the District Commissioner in the region you plan to marry.
The plus side of having an Iceland Wedding during the holiday season is all the decorations are already in place. This makes it easier for you and your wallet – no need to splurge on the reception or ceremony decor. Chances are your reception location will already have holiday decor. You might even be able to borrow a few pieces from the hotel you are staying at.
Another bonus of having an Iceland Wedding or elopement during the holidays is there is a high probability of capturing a firework show at the end of the day. In Iceland it is legal to buy and light your own fireworks from December 28th through December 6th. Every night you are almost certain to see fireworks being lit in neighbourhoods all around Iceland. If you happen to be here for New Year’s Eve, you will be treated to fireworks. At the stroke of midnight, amazing colours fill the skies and last in upwards to an hour or more.
Has this blog inspired you to take the leap to start planning your own Iceland Holiday Wedding or Elopement? Contact Us and lets get started today!