Published November 29, 2017
Stuffed puffins are for noobs. Take home some Icelandic seasonal traditions with you this Christmas instead.
There are shops selling Icelandic wool sweaters, aka lopapeysur, all over downtown Reykjavík. But you should pay attention to what you buy—many of the sweaters on offer are machine knitted, or manufactured outside of Iceland from non-Icelandic fibre. One place you’ll definitely find the real thing is the Icelandic Handknitting Association, located on Skólavörðustigur, which is crammed with authentic Icelandic woollen garments of all colours, shapes and sizes. Let the sweater choose you.
This crisp, buttery snack—”leaf bread,” in English—is a staple of Icelandic Christmas food. Somewhere between a poppadom and shortbread, it’s a round, wafer thin biscuit with a delicate decorative pattern. To eat it the traditional way, serve it with hangikjöt and potatoes, peas, cabbage and béchamel sauce. You could try to make it yourself by picking up a “laufabrauðsjárn” roller to create the pattern, or buy some readymade in Bónus. It’s fragile, so good luck getting it home in one piece.
We thought about pranking y’all by suggesting you pick up some disgusting “skata,” or fermented skate—a harrowing, ammonia-reeking, inexplicably persistent Christmas food tradition in Iceland. But it’s gross. So instead, pick up some Jólabjór. Most of Iceland’s breweries create seasonal ales, and their Christmas beers tend to be strong, full-bodied and spiced. Grab a selection at Vinbúðin—we particularly recommend the Kaldi.
Yule Lads Tree Decoration
The Yule Lads are a bunch of creepy dwarves who belong to Iceland’s Christmas mythology. Each day leading up to Christmas, one of them comes into town and annoys people by, say, drinking their cream, slamming doors, stealing candles, or just looking in through the window like a creep. They are, however, pretty harmless, and dress like Santa’s elves. You can pick up a very Icelandic keepsake of a Yule Lad tree decoration at almost any souvenir shop on Laugavegur.
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