Christmas in Iceland: Past Preparations
In past times, Icelanders busied themselves in the week before Christmas preparing for the holiday. Women made candles, baked, cooked, washed clothes, and knit stockings and mittens. The folklore of Iceland abounds in tales of hard-hearted bosses who worked their domestic servants so far into the night during this week that they had to place sticks between their eyelids to keep them propped open. For this reason, Icelanders dubbed the week preceding Christmas “Stick Week.” Snacks eaten during this week were named “stick bites.” Those who did their share of the work received at least one article of woolen clothing as a Christmas present.
According to Icelandic folklore, the Christmas cat would pursue those who had nothing new to wear on Christmas. This fearsome creature was the pet of Gryla, the ogress who spawned the Christmas Lads. Presumably, fear of falling prey to this hungry, magical cat motivated people to work hard in preparing for the Christmas festival.