Christmas in Iceland: Christmas Eve and Day
Icelanders begin their Christmas celebrations on Christmas Eve. Many people attend Christmas church services on this day. A large festive meal is prepared for 6 p.m., when Icelanders consider Christmas to begin. Traditional Christmas dishes include hangikjot (smoked meat), halibut, dried fish, sausages, an Icelandic bird called rock ptarmigan, laufabraud (leaf-bread, a type of cookie) and a kind of rice pudding. The rice pudding contains a single almond. Whoever finds the almond in their serving of pudding gets an extra gift. Nowadays many imported foods are available in addition to the traditional Icelandic Christmas fare. In past times custom frowned on the consumption of alcohol at Christmas time, though nowadays people may lubricate their festivities with Christmas ale or other alcoholic beverages.
Families open their presents after dinner on Christmas Eve. When this has been completed some families join hands around the Christmas tree and sing Christmas carols. Icelandic television stations shut down between 5 and 10 p.m. on Christmas Eve, affirming the high value that Icelanders place on having this time together with their families.
On Christmas Day people stay at home with their families, go visiting, attend parties, and continue to enjoy special Christmas foods.