Iceland is known for having some of the best Christmas celebrations in the world! Leading up to the holiday, Iceland’s capital city, Reykjavik, engages in a variety of charming and spirited traditions to get everybody in the Christmas spirit. Read on to learn more about some of the most popular and festive activities!
Christmas Tree Traditions
The beginning of the holiday season in Iceland is marked by the lighting of the iconic Oslo Christmas tree on the Austurvöllur Parliament square. Additional Christmas trees all around the capital area are lit, including trees in Hafnarfjörður Heritage Harbor, Mosfellsbær Mountain Borough and Kópavogur Culture Hill. The locals celebrate by gathering around the trees and dancing to choirs and singing Christmas carols and hymns. This tradition is honored through an exhibit in the Árbær Open Air Museum where visitors can participate in traditional Christmas activities such as making leaf bread, spin yarn, candles and ornaments. Visitors can even visit Reykjavík City Hall and walk through the Christmas forest, decorated beautifully by children in Reykjavík with ornaments made from recycled material.
Laugardalur Christmas Valley Walk
Visitors often also venture to the the Reykjavík Botanic Garden for a relaxing walk through a beautiful arboretum filled with ponds and birdlife. Inside the garden, visitors will find a Café Flora, where they can stop for hot chocolate, mulled wine, jólaglögg, delicious cakes, and live music. Activities include trying out the Skate Hall in Laugardalur and ice skating around a beautifully decorated Christmas tree to the sound of Christmas songs. Finally, at the end of the day, visitors can relax by soaking in hot water underneath a starry sky in the Laugardalur thermal pool. The “Christmas bath,” as it is referred to, is an Icelandic tradition everyone can participate in!
The Book-Flood before Christmas
Be sure to check out why Reykjavík is a UNESCO City of Literature and learn how they celebrate literature in various ways throughout the holiday season. Traditionally, books are the single most popular Christmas gift in Iceland during the holiday. This tradition is so popular that it is even called the “Christmas-book-flood.” Visitors can pay a holiday visit to the house of Iceland’s only Nobel laureate, Halldór Laxness, located nearby in Mosfellsdalur valley. This warm home is now a museum, left exactly as it was when the writer and his family lived there. Other activities include enjoying a warm drink at the book cafés and browse the selection of local authors, or taking a relaxed literary stroll with a private guide on the app, Reykjavik Culture Walks.
Tell us which holiday activity you’re most excited about in the comments or on Twitter!