The Little Book of the Icelanders at Christmas

On the rituals and customs of the Icelandic people during Yule

Christmas in Iceland is special. Everything pulsates with vibrant energy, as the Icelanders embrace those festive traditions that make them a tribe. In this book, Alda Sigmundsdóttir invites you on a journey of Iceland’s magical Yuletide season, all the way to New Year’s Eve, and beyond.

The Little Book of the Icelanders at Christmas on three devices
Happy little boy from The Little Book of the Icelanders at Christmas

Ask any Icelander and they will tell you that Christmas in Iceland is a magical time. Music is all around, friends gather, restaurants are filled with people partaking of festive Yuletide offerings, authors are out and about reading from their new works. There is even a word for the gleeful excitement one feels when waiting for Christmas—jólaskap, literally “Christmas mood”.

In The Little Book of the Icelanders at Christmas, Alda Sigmundsdóttir invites you to learn about the special foods, traditions, and customs that make Christmas in Iceland so special and to meet a colourful cast of characters that are such an integral part of the Yule. In her inimitable style, and using examples from her own life, Alda gives you not only the modern version of Christmas but also the historical and cultural background to many of the traditions that are still observed today.

Beautifully illustrated by Megan Herbert, The Little Book of the Icelanders at Christmas is the perfect book for all lovers of Iceland. Available in paperback, ebook, audiobook, and hardcover formats. The paperbacks, ebooks, and audiobooks are available from your nearest Amazon store. The hardcovers ship from Iceland.

Sample chapter

Scary din-dins

As yet I have not reported on the crazy and colourful cast of characters that are such an integral part of the Icelandic jól. I shall remedy that herewith, beginning with the formidable matriarch known as Grýla.

Grýla is a troll who lives in a cave up in the mountains, and who for centuries was shamelessly used to terrorise children into behaving—that is, until popular psychology declared that traumatising children for life was not the most effective way to shape their conduct. Grýla, you see, has a taste for naughty children, and whenever they are ill-behaved she comes down into the inhabited areas, locates the offenders, stuffs them into a sack, and hauls them back to her cave where she has a boiling cauldron of water perpetually on the fire. Into the cauldron the naughty children go, and once they are tender enough for Grýla’s taste, they are promptly eaten by her and her loathsome husband Leppalúði.

Grýla has been skulking around the collective Icelandic unconscious since the 12th century when she is first mentioned in the Sagas. Descriptions of her appearance vary, but numerous stories describe her as having hooves for feet, claws for fingernails, and a great many tails that she drags along behind her. Each of those tails reportedly contains a sack that will fit up to 20 naughty children. Other stories recount her as having 300 heads, each with three eyes, horns, and teeth that resemble rocks.

Not someone you would want to meet in a dark valley, to be sure.

According to most accounts the wretched Leppalúði, who seems to have no other purpose in life than to sit pathetically around the cave and take up space, is Grýla’s third husband. Legend has it that she ate the other two, so evidently, her cannibalistic tendencies are not limited to children. Gah!

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All the food

Smoked lamb, ptarmigan, Sarah Bernhardt cookies, leaf bread, yum!

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Sacred customs

Ringing in the Yule, candlelit cemeteries, festive dinners, family traditions

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Christmas lights and their importance

Because: winter darkness

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Essential Yuletide recipes

Sarah Bernhardt cookies, gingerbread, laufabrauð (leaf bread)

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Crazy traditions

Eating putrid skate: say no more!

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Books books books

Because everyone must get at least one book for Christmas

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The New Year's blowout

Pyrotechnic madness like you’ve never known

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The characters of Yule

Grýla, Leppalúði, Yule Cat, Yule Lads and murdering elves, hello!

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And so much more inside!

Copy of The Little Book of the Icelanders at Christmas placed by some Christmas decorations

Merry merry!

Learn about the unique Icelandic Christmas celebrtions and the historical and cultural backgrounds of the many traditions that are still observed today. Available in paperback, eBook, audiobook and quality hardcover formats. Get your copy of The Little Book of the Icelanders at Christmas today!

Reviews

THE LITTLE BOOK OF THE ICELANDERS AT CHRISTMAS

If you’re a fan of all things Iceland, like to read about traditions in other cultures, or just enjoy a charming read, […] The Little Book of the Icelanders at Christmas may be the stocking stuffer you’re looking for. This fun-sized book includes personal reflections on the season, plenty of Yule folklore (who is considered the favorite of the 13 Yule Lads? It’s in here.), and even has some traditional recipes for smákökur (cookies, or literally, “little cakes.”). Generously illustrated, it’s a quick read, perfect for getting you into a festive mood, and a great gift during the next jólabókaflóðið, or Christmas book flood.

TED W. VIA AMAZON

THE LITTLE BOOK OF THE ICELANDERS AT CHRISTMAS

Love this book! Sigmundsdottir has written several lucid and very useful books on Iceland, but this one really shows her sense of humor. In short chapters, she takes the reader through the days of the Christmas season, including New Year’s, and explains the origins of the customs of food, lights, fireworks, gift-giving, and being with family. With more tourists in Iceland during the holidays, the book explains what to expect and when. It even makes you want to give fermented skate a try.

KEVIN GRACE VIA AMAZON

THE LITTLE BOOK OF THE ICELANDERS AT CHRISTMAS

[…] Our first trip to Iceland was at Christmas time and we remarked, way back then, that we wish there was a tiny manual to understand how lovey and crazy Iceland was at Christmas time. Whether you have been to Iceland or not – this book is charming, funny, delightfully well written, and very educational. We have been reading a few chapters each morning to one another as we sit by the tree and have coffee. It’s adorable. I highly recommend it and definitely recommend it as a lovely little Christmas present for your loved ones : )

TIMOTHEY SULLIVAN VIA AMAZON

THE LITTLE BOOK OF THE ICELANDERS AT CHRISTMAS

From the minute we landed, we began to see some of the things I had just read. The first thing I see is one of the Elf Lads. In the heart of Reykjavík we found the Christmas cat, he was mighty fierce. I have never read a book that so prepared me for sights I knew I might see. The timing was perfect! I even ate skate […]. Thank you for your lovely book.

CHERYL N. DOLLAR VIA AMAZON

THE LITTLE BOOK OF THE ICELANDERS AT CHRISTMAS

The Audible version of The Little Book of Icelanders at Christmas is filled with humor, insight, and historic, cultural customs of the Icelanders. The reading by the author is so clear and filled with a personal inflection that it feels like you are attending a personal reading of the book. […] It will bring a smile and warm your heart with stories of family and place.

MARYJ VIA AMAZON

THE LITTLE BOOK OF THE ICELANDERS AT CHRISTMAS

This is a fun and fascinating insight into the holiday habits of the Nicelanders […]. 40 bite-sized chapters are included, each covering a different aspect of the celebrations, giving detail about what (generally) happens nowadays throughout the festive season, and often an insight into the probable reasons for it from Iceland’s incredibly difficult, cold, and poverty-stricken past. […] A worthwhile and entertaining read for all Iceland fans […] but equally so for any Christmas fanatics out there, or those with an interest in other cultures’ customs.

LJ FOX VIA AMAZON

THE LITTLE BOOK OF THE ICELANDERS AT CHRISTMAS

[…] Sigmundsdottir’s humorous approach to all things Icelandic once again made me wish to return to the land of ice and fire while simultaneously making me feel I was already there. If you are looking to immerse yourself in the holiday spirit, or want to learn about how Christmas traditions unfold beneath the aurora borealis, this book is perfect. And it even has some Christmas cookie recipes, too!

J. SMILEY VIA AMAZON

About the author

Alda Sigmundsdóttir the Author of the Little Books about Iceland

Alda Sigmundsdóttir is a writer, and occasional journalist. She runs her own independent press, Little Books Publishing, based in Reykjavík, Iceland.

Alda is the author of ten books, each of which explores an aspect of Icelandic culture or society. Her two latest books, The Little Book of the Icelanders at Christmas and The Little Book of Days in Iceland, are about the Icelanders’ enthusiasm for the Yuletide season, and Iceland’s special seasonal events and holidays, respectively. Alda is active on social media, and may be found on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

Our other Little Books

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