Christmas in Iceland: St. Thorlak’s Day
Icelanders observe December 23 as St. Thorlak’s Day. St. Thorlak — an Icelandic monk, as well as the bishop of Skaholt—won fame for his efforts to reform the church, but was murdered in 1193. According to tradition, intensive preparations for the coming Christmas festival took place on this day. People washed clothes, prepared the Christmas feast, and cleaned their homes. Stores stayed open late and people did their Christmas shopping. Today many people mark the day by consuming a simple meal in the evening, often skate hash, a dish similar to the Norwegian lutefisk (see also Christmas in Norway). In addition, many people wait until St. Thorlak’s Day to decorate their Christmas tree.