From Iceland — Grapevine Christmas Music Picks: All The "Gleðileg Jól" You Could Possibly Pack Into A Playlist

Grapevine Christmas Music Picks: All The “Gleðileg Jól” You Could Possibly Pack Into A Playlist

Published December 17, 2021

Grapevine Christmas Music Picks: All The “Gleðileg Jól” You Could Possibly Pack Into A Playlist
Photo by
Elli Thor

It’s the last Friday afternoon before Christmas Eve. And if you’re not imposing festive cheer on your office party by blasting our top choice of Icelandic Christmas tunes then you clearly hate Santa, and all the little Yule Lads. And you’ll get a rotten potato in your stocking.

Christmas Mix By Örvar Smárason and Ívar Kjartansson

Every other year, Örvar Smárason and Ívar Kjartansson of the band FM Belfast put together a festive mix of tunes to get all of Iceland grooving into the festive mood. They would do it every year, but the strain that huge undertaking would place on their families would probably lead to broken homes. But fortunately for us, this year is one in which the boys are taking that risk! And if you want to experience them DJing these musical gems live, then be at Röntgen on the evening of Friday 17th December. JP

Jólakötturinn – Björk

Christmas used to be a grim affair in Iceland. One of the hallmarks of this is the Christmas Cat, a giant feline who would eat children who haven’t gotten any new clothes for Christmas, which is pretty classist if you ask us. Björk sings the tale of a hungry Christmas Cat stalking poor children, who barely escape with their lives as their mothers furiously knit clothing for them. In the end, she exhorts others to help the less fortunate, lest they fall victim to the Christmas Cat–which isn’t a bad takeaway from this otherwise chilling legend. ASF

Hvar Eru Jólin – Rúnk (Hildur Guðna and Benni Hemm Hemm)

This is the kind of Christmas song I gravitate toward. Sparse, bleak, sentimental in a fairly miserable way, with tinkly piano notes to remind you that this, actually, is meant to be the happiest time of the year. “Where is Christmas?” Hildur and Benni repeatedly demand to know. It’s not to be found on Laugavegur, where the slushy streets are infuriatingly rammed with people who have the audacity to be happy, jovial even. I’m with them on that one. Turns out Christmas is in your heart, or something to that effect. As bloody usual. We should have learned by now. Christmas; it’s always in the last place you look, eh? JG

Costa Del Jól – Prins Póló

There is nothing that Icelanders love more than to escape the winter darkness with a tacky beach holiday to some grim Mediterranean resort town. Prins Póló’s tongue-in-cheek number takes the form of a Christmas card from the holidaymakers to the loved ones they’ve gleefully left behind on this frigid northern rock. As a result there’s a healthy dose of smug schadenfreude in the mix, but it’s balanced by truly warm Christmas sentiment. Also, rhyming “Malaga” with “abracadabra” is a stroke of pure, unadulterated genius. JG

Stúfur – Baggalútur

What would Christmas be without the presence of our beloved Baggalútur? They’re known for throwing the liveliest Christmas concerts around, and their festive tracks make you want to dance and sing along with them. We challenge you to stay still when listening to this upbeat number from their Christmas album—it’s an impossible task. RH

Grýla Er Hætt Að Borða Börn – Bubbi Morthens

Icelandic musical legend Bubbi Morthens brings this cheery little ditty to the Christmas party. The title translates as “Grýla Has Quit Eating Children” and refers to the mother of the infamous Yule Lads, those mischievous Icelandic elves who visit human homes around Christmas. Grýla has a propensity for boiling and eating children, an act which—like the antics of jólakötturinn in Björk’s song—might strike some as not being particularly festive. So Bubbi here tries to reassure the children that Grýla has mended her ways as he skiffles his way through one of his trademark timeless musical arrangements. Some may say that maintaining the legend of Grýla might have been more useful in keeping the kids on their best behaviour. But Icelandic approaches to parenting have apparently moved on, led by the likes of Bubbi. JP

You can now take walking tours of Reykjavík with Grapevine crew members Valur, Pollý and Bjartmar as your guides. Click here for more details.

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