Christmas is a BIG deal in Iceland. Yet there’s a limit to how early people can let out the holiday spirit; it is often considered blasphemy to even think about it before the first Sunday in Advent (this year on December 2).
People curse early ads and commercials, criticize neighbors for premature Christmas decorations and cover their ears if carols are played too soon, exclaiming: “Jóla hvað!?”
“Christmas, what!?” are the final words of the lyrics to the classic ‘Skrámur skrifar jólasveininum’ by comedian Laddi from 1984.
I totally agree with not making a head start on Christmas. However, when one wakes up in the morning and it’s dark outside, there’s a nip in the air and the stars are out, it’s hard to keep those butterflies in the stomach from fluttering.
Not to mention after the first snow of the season falls—as happened in Reykjavík yesterday. (Of course, North Icelanders saw the first snow as early as mid-September and weren’t all too excited about it.)
And so people may secretly start to plan for Christmas, at least mentally, as soon as the dark season hits. I know I’m guilty of it.
For traditions for which one must plan are aplenty.
The most important of all pre-holiday preparations is jólahreingerning (‘Christmas cleaning’), a sacred ritual in many homes that goes back centuries.
Don’t even think about baking cookies, hanging up ornaments, writing Christmas cards or wrapping presents before it’s finished.
And it’s not just the usual dusting and vacuuming. The kitchen cupboards must be wiped inside and out, as does the bedroom closet. The skirting must be dusted, the windows and the drapes washed (and perhaps exchanged for drapes with a holiday theme).
It’s boring and it takes forever. In the past years we’ve never managed to finish our Christmas cleaning in time for the holidays, so this year, my husband and I started the first weekend in November, little by little working our way through the entire apartment.
And it doesn’t feel too much like cheating because there really isn’t anything Christmassy about organizing the storage or defrosting the fridge. This weekend wiping the walls is up. The walls! I’m really taking jólahreingerning to new heights…
But the best part of it is, come December, I’ll have a clean apartment and a clean conscience and can go nuts with decorating and baking cookies.
When the countdown begins, I want to fully embrace the holiday season, crossing off the days up until Christmas Eve. We will celebrate at home this year, organizing everything ourselves and cherishing our own special traditions.
And after the last mouthful of dessert has been enjoyed, the final present unwrapped and the winner of the board game announced, we’ll creep in between freshly-washed sheets (washing the sheets is the final stage of jólahreingerning) with a new book and read till we doze off.
I know I shouldn’t be announcing this already… but I can’t wait!
Eygló Svala Arnarsdóttir – firstname.lastname@example.org