One of my favorite times of the year has arrived. Advent is something that warms my heart and gets me excited every year, wherever I am.
When I was a kid, it always seemed to be snowing during this time of year. Everyone was busy getting ready for Christmas, baking, buying presents, cleaning their houses. Some even used the opportunity to paint the house. New curtains, Christmas dances, shoes in the window placed by children hoping them to be filled with a treat from the Yule Lads.
Most importantly, everyone was making sure to get new clothes for Christmas, to avoid an encounter with the horrific, murderous Icelandic Christmas Cat. Writing the Christmas cards for loved ones was a wonderful tradition in my home, and one of my warmest memories was when I helped my grandma writing hers, because she said her handwriting wasn´t good enough. My mum´s Christmas cookies are a precious part of the memories. Wonderful to come inside with red cheeks after playing in the snow, a cookie and cold milk was exactly what was needed.
The most precious feeling of advent to me is the kindness of people and the importance of gathering, giving each other small presents and listening to beautiful music on a cold December evening. Even though the Icelanders have a tendency of overdoing it a bit during Christmas, that is just a part of the experience, and when people sit down together at 18.00 on Christmas eve, all stress is gone and nothing left to do but to enjoy to the fullest with your loved ones.
With age, I have come to miss Iceland a lot during this time of year as I live in The Netherlands, where there is not a lot of fuss about Christmas. They have other traditions that are highlighted here.
Advent is also a mystical time of year. When you live in a land of fire and ice it is not surprising that stories of trolls, elves, hidden people and all kinds of creatures are created, especially during the darkest months of the year. A lot of mystical-looking areas encourage a vivid imagination. The stories told this time of year are some extraordinary and exciting.
There are many traditions in Iceland that are not, to my knowledge, practiced elsewhere. Many of them are only practiced in some parts of Iceland and some are well known to everyone.
The 13 Yule Lads (instead of a single Santa Clause), Laufabraud (a beautifully decorated fried flat bread), skata (fermented fish), the Christmas Book Flood, shoes in the window and Christmas dances for the children. These are some of the traditions that make Advent and Christmas exciting and different in Iceland.
Many people go to Church only on Christmas Eve to welcome the peace, the light and the warmth for themselves, their family and others. Iceland is not now a very religious country; we were in the past and the traditions come from people putting their effort and pride in celebrating the good in the world, and during these hard months of winter in Iceland, that was a true gift of light into people´s life.
The traditions are mixed as Iceland became Christian in the year 1000 without blood being shed, under the condition of being able to practice secretly their heathen traditions, believing in the Viking gods and goddesses, such as Thor, Odin and Freyja. That influences Iceland’s history from early times and explain the diversity of these traditions compared to those of some other countries. This influences the Advent, Christmas and New years traditions a lot in Iceland.
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Just a hint. It is connected to the Christmas Book Flood.
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