When you travel, do you like to be immersed into the local culture? Walk away feeling like you were a part of something bigger and not just the general tourist experience. Likely experiencing Iceland like a local is at the top of your list then! Today we are excited to share with you ways to participate in Iceland’s Culture and Traditions.
Guide to Iceland’s CULTURE and Traditions
The history of Iceland’s culture and traditions run deep. To illustrate, 874 is the documented year settlement of the island begins and also the start of Viking heritage. Over the centuries the island develops in all sorts of directions. For example, animals like horses and sheep are brought in which in turn become a very important part of the culture.
Fast forward centuries, hundreds and even thousands of years… And here is a rundown of the most coveted and celebrated days and customs in Iceland you can experience for yourself!
Bjórdagurinn – Beer Day
Did you know prohibition was a thing here in Iceland too? It wasn’t until March 1st 1989 when it was eliminated. Now that date every year is celebrated as Bjórdagurinn (Icelandic Beer Day). So why not come to Iceland and celebrate too by trying out some new beers?!
Bolludagur – Bun Day
In the USA you celebrate something called, “Fat Tuesday” on the day before Ash Wednesday, when Lent begins for many. But here in Iceland Bolludagur (Cream Bun Day) is celebrated the Monday of that week. It’s when many locals flock to the bakeries and buy cream filled donuts. However, by American standards they taste more savory than sweet. But if you’re in Iceland the week of Ash Wednesday, see for yourself by participating in one of Iceland’s culture and traditions!
Christmas Traditions in Iceland
Iceland’s culture and traditions during Christmas time should seriously be made into a movie. For real, from having 13 yule lads trolls who pay a visit each day, a big fat black cat who will eat your children if they do no behave for wear nice clothes for Christmas Eve, to eating the smelliest fish on the planet a few days before. Not to mention the insane amount of fireworks that happen between Christmas and New Years, it’s almost hard to believe! Read more about it in our previous Iceland wedding planning blog post, celebrating the holiday season in Iceland.
Festivals in iceland
Folks travel from around the world to enjoy the yearly festivals and events that happen in Iceland. Maybe because they love the idea of taking in some of Iceland’s culture and traditions. To illustrate, here is a short list of the top 12 festivals in Iceland:
- Thirteenth Day of Christmas (Epiphany; bonfires and fireworks). Also referred to as January 6th / burning off Christmas. Each town has their own celebration.
- Reykjavik Winter Lights Festival (February).
- Viking Festival in Hafnarfjörður (June).
- Fishermen’s Day (celebrates the Festival of the Sea all weekend the first weekend in June).
- Reykjavík Fringe Festival (end of June / early July).
- Innipukinn Music Festival (Indie Rock / end of July).
- Þjóðhátíð National Festival (Westman Islands Music Festival / end of July or early August).
- Reykjavík Pride Festival (early August).
- Reykjavík International Film Festival (end of September).
- Lighting of Imagine Peace Tower on Viðey Island (October 9th).
- Iceland Airwaves Music Festival in Reykjavík (early November).
- Christmas Village / Festival in Hafnarfjörður (weekends during Advent).
Konudagur – Wife’s Day // Bóndadagur – Husband’s Day
On January 25th you celebrate your husband if you’re married (Bóndadagur). And then on February 24th you celebrate your wife if you you have one! Iceland’s culture and traditions celebrating each other are like the USA version of “Valentines” or “Sweetest Day.”
Kransakaka (Iceland Traditional Wedding Cake)
Iceland Desserts are endless! But if you’re getting married in Iceland you may want to opt in to one of Iceland’s culture and traditions of having a Kransakaka (Ring Cake).
Lambing to Réttir
Sheep came to Iceland practically the same time the Vikings arrived. The animals were a source of warmth (wool) and food throughout the centuries. Therefore, farmers still to this day are very prideful when it comes to Iceland’s culture and traditions surrounding them. For example, lambing usually happens between mid-April to early June depending on the farm or region of Iceland.
Firstly, it is a 24-7 job for the farmers during the 1-3 week stretch. Secondly, the lambs need to transition from being inside the barn to outside heading into May and June. Thirdly, many are released up into the highlands for free-grazing. Fourth, then during the first to second week of September the farmers spend days to weeks up there herding them back down from the mountains and back to the farms. This process is one referred to as, Réttir.
Rímur (old Icelandic rhymes) & Folklore
Back in the day, when there were limited sources for entertainment Iceland’s culture and traditions led them to story telling and rhyming. For instance, folklore stories were a way to teach lessons, warn people, and also enthrall. Likely, the same for Icelandic rhymes (called Rímur). They were ways to express yourself and also tell stories. Imagine including an old rhyme into your Iceland elopement or wedding ceremony!
Icelandic Eider DuckS
We all know wool had kept Iceland warm for hundreds of years. But did you also know the eider ducks have too? In fact, there are farmers who have been protecting these creatures for centuries too? In fact, it is such an incredible thorough process that the down that comes from them is the most expensive in the world! Personally, this is a favorite of Iceland’s culture and traditions!!
Sumardagurinn Fyrsti (the first day of summer)
Way back when Iceland just had two seasons (winter and summer) April 20th was the day when winter turned to summer by local standards. However, as time and global warming has taken place the island has now transitioned to having four seasons instead of two. But why not still come to celebrate one of Iceland’s culture and traditions by visiting during the first day of summer?!
Wow-wee! If you want to be fully immersed into old Icelandic ways and history we encourage you to come during Þorrablót. Which is between mid-January to mid-February when locals indulge in the traditional foods of long ago. To illustrate, if you attend a dinner you could try the following items:
- Fermented Greenland Shark (aka rotten shark as many say, called Hákarl).
- Súrsaðir Hrútspungar which is basically sour ram’s testicles.
- Boiled Sheep’s Head translates to Svið.
- Sviðasulta is jelly / jam made from the sheep’s head (like cringe worthy juices that come from the skull).
- Liver Sausage (from sheep), called Lifrapylsa.
- Blood Sausage,
- Hangikjöt which is dried / hung smoked lamb.
- Harðfiskur is dried fish (for our less adventurous folks out there)!
- Rúgbrauð which is slow cooked Icelandic rye bread.
Other Local Things to Do In iceland:
Okay so maybe none of the above suit you.. Therefore, how about Iceland’s culture and traditions that are a bit easier to attain and are available year round? Here’s a shortlist as you plan your honeymoon around Iceland:
- Visit geothermal pools.
- Local spots in Reykjavik to eat.
- Go home with Icelandic chocolates!
- Stop at a local Museum in Iceland… Especially a turf house one.
- Try your hand at making Icelandic pancakes!
- Learn some Icelandic words!
- Watch the Northern Lights!
- Don’t miss the iconic places that scream Iceland! Although they may be touristy they are amazing to witness!
- Checkout downtown Reykjavik’s nightlife.
- Buy a wool sweater from the Icelandic Hand Knitting Association!
Wedding Traditions in Iceland
Often we get asked about Iceland’s culture and traditions in regards to weddings. However, locals do not normally where a traditional “dress” or the “national costume” when getting married. As that is only worn during the 17th of June (Independence day) celebrations. Some might want to don traditional Viking attire. While you could, but it is not something normally done here as a local.
But if you did want to get married in Iceland like a local then you would get married in nature (rain or shine) or inside of the 100’s of countryside churches. Next, most locals would hold a gigantic party afterwards.
In conclusion, we hope today you have found our Iceland Weddings & Honeymoons blog post helpful today! If you’re interested in planning an elopement in Iceland or wedding we would love to hear from you. Please use our contact page to begin that informational journey…
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