Smoked Pork and Christmas Presents Skip to content

Smoked Pork and Christmas Presents

Tonight is Christmas Eve. Christmas in Iceland officially begins when the bells of the Reykjavík Cathedral chime at 6 pm. By then families have gathered around the dinner table and afterwards they open presents and Christmas cards.

Family members of all ages dress up in their finest clothes, after a long and relaxing Christmas bath, before dinner starts.

A smoked pork roast, glazed with sugar and decorated with pineapple, according to a Danish tradition, will be on many dinner tables in Iceland.

Side dishes include sugar-glazed potatoes, green beans, red cabbage and a salad made of whipped cream, apples, walnuts, celery and grapes. A popular starter is cream of asparagus soup and homemade ice cream is often served as dessert.

Roasted ptarmigan is also a traditional Icelandic Christmas dinner, originally more common among poorer families. Roasted goose is a popular Christmas dish as well and reindeer steak is gaining popularity.

Jólaöl, a soft drink mixture of orange soda and malt, is the traditional Christmas drink in Iceland, although in recent years many adults have preferred wine.

After a three-course meal, the presents that have been stacked underneath the Christmas tree are opened. Traditionally, Christmas cards are not opened until after the presents.

Before Christmas Eve the whole house has to be cleaned and the bed sheets washed. Many Icelanders receive books for Christmas, and after chatting and playing board games until midnight or later, they slip in between their freshly-washed sheets and browse through their new books.

Some families go to church at 6 pm on Christmas Eve and have dinner afterwards; others might attend a midnight mass. Many go to the cemetery before dinner to place a candle on the graves of loved ones that have passed away to honor their memory.

A typical lunch on December 24 is rice pudding. An almond is hidden in the saucepan and the person who finds the almond in his or her rice pudding gets a little surprise. Other families have cold rice pudding with an almond for dessert, as they do in Denmark.

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