Christmas Anxiety Rising Among Icelanders Skip to content

Christmas Anxiety Rising Among Icelanders

By Steindor Gretar Jonsson

christmas cat
Photo: Photo: Golli. The Christmas Cat in downtown Reykjavík.

According to Icelandic folklore, the Christmas Cat will eat those who don’t receive new clothes to wear on Christmas Eve. If that’s not enough to worry about, the ogress Grýla snatches mischievous children to cook in her pot, while her 13 sons, the Yule Lads, harass the island’s inhabitants and pull nighttime pranks as the days increasingly get shorter.

“Christmas anxiety” is a well-known concept among Icelanders, who spend the last weeks before the holidays running around buying presents and groceries for the many upcoming family gatherings. The term seems to have a sociological and economic foundation. When asked in a new poll by Maskína, 15.3 percent said they were anxious about Christmas, Heimildin reports. This is a higher percentage than last year, when 13.7 percent responded this way, and almost double compared to 2019 when 7.5 percent reported anxiety. On top of this, the number of people who reported little or no anxiety dropped. The percentage of non-anxious went from 71.3 last year to 64.4 percent this year.

Anxiety in lower income brackets

The anxiety is at its highest among those with the lowest income, the poll suggests. A third of those from homes with less than ISK 400,000 [$2,900, €2,700] in monthly income are anxious. However, only one out of ten of those with ISK 1.2 Million [$8,800, €8,000]  in monthly household income reported anxiety. The current economic situation might play a part, Heimildin argues, as purchasing power has steadily declined over the last year, consumer prices have risen due to inflation, which currently stands at 7.7 percent, while interest rates are high, leading to costly monthly mortgage payments for many homeowners.

Supporters of ruling parties in Christmas spirits

People from the higher income brackets were also more likely to say that they “look forward to Christmas”. Over half of the overall population, 52.3 percent, responded this way, but 63.5 percent of the highest earners conveyed their excitement. Political affiliations also seem to have an effect, as supporters of the Left-Green Movement and the Independence Party, both of whom are now in power at the national level, have a more positive outlook for Christmas. The supporters of the Pirate Party, the People’s Party and the Socialist Party are more pessimistic when it comes to the upcoming “holiday of light and peace” as Icelanders call it.

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