Christmas traditions in North Iceland

Christmas is a magical time of the year everywhere. In the darkest corners of the world, being so close to the North Pole, Icelanders do know how to enjoy this time of year. It’s a relief to hang up beautiful lights indoors and outdoors to face the otherwise 20 hr darkness, when the sun comes up at noon and goes down by tea-time. A time of year when you can expect snow storms and blizzards that block roads and make staying indoor as cozy as ever. December is a busy month for most people and an exciting month for the kids as they meet the 13 Santa Clauses / Yule Lads. Who in the old days were mischievous, but have turned to a better path and are now very popular guests whenever people meet during the month of December.

The Yule lads / Santa Claus have a home in North Iceland

The Santa Claus in Iceland is called a Yule Lad and they are 13 brothers, sons of an ogre named Grýla and her ogre-husband Leppalúði. The 13 Yule Lads all have different names and different characteristics which derive from their pranks and mischief’s in the old days; such as Þvörusleikir (Spoon-Licker), Kertasníkir (Candle-Snatcher), Kjötkrókur (Meat-Hook) and Hurðaskellir (Door-Slammer). They arrive one by one starting from 13 days before christmas and go home, up to the mountains, one by one after christmas night. Their home is in Dimmuborgir (translates as Dark-Cities), a lava field park in Mývatn in North Iceland. During the weekends that lead up to Christmas you can visit the Yule Lads in Dimmuborgir and chat with them and sing and dance.

Mývatn is a beautiful, scenic place both during summer and winter. A lake in the middle of a lava field where you can visit a geothermal pool and observe hot sulfuric mud springs. The lake is a breeding ground for most duck species in the world during summertime and one of two lakes in the world where you can find Marimo, a green algae.

Christmas all-you-can-eat buffet

Christmas is a time of feast! Many restaurants in Iceland offer a Christmas buffet where you’ll find true Icelandic delicacies (no shark or sheep testicles this time!) both in superb cold dishes and entrees, steaks and desserts. Many companies and colleagues enjoy these buffets together, as well as families and friends.

The Christmas garden

Just 10km south of Akureyri you’ll find the Christmas house, a beautiful boutique full of the Christmas spirit. The smell in there is divine. A crackling fireplace in the entrance and Christmas carols are played in the background. On the outside it looks like a very small hut, inside it has a grande staircase down to the cellar, so actually the house is around 4x bigger than it looks like from the outside.

Christmas garden

Image from Nordicmum.com

We recommend visiting North Iceland during the Christmas season, a magical place and uniquely different from anywhere else in the world. During the Christmas holidays people in Iceland like to enjoy winter activities such as go skiing, on snowmobile rides, dog-sledding, enjoy the outdoor hot geothermal pools and watch the Northern lights .

Akureyri getting ready for Christmas – Photo by Audunn Nielsson – audunn.com

Dagny Reykjalin

Dagny Reykjalin

Graphic Designer / Co-founder of UpNorth

Dagný is a travel and designer geek born and raised in North Iceland