Countdown to Christmas 2016 - Week 6 - Iceland

Jólasveinarnir (Yule Lads) - photo courtesy of Iceland 24


In Iceland, Christmas (called Yule or Jól) festivities start at 6 pm on Christmas Eve, December 24th, and last until Twelfth Night (Epiphany, January 6th). In the high north, Christmas is linked to ancient traditions related to the winter solstice, called Yule.  Celebrations took place on a full moon during the time of year when the day was shortest. Not much is known about how the feast was celebrated then except that Icelandic chieftains were in the habit of inviting scores of people to Yule drinking and eating feasts.  Later, Yule was superseded by the celebration of the birth of Christ with the coming of Christianity around 1000 AD.



Italy 50 cent 2002 Euro Coin Pendant 14 kt Gold Filled Bezel Handmade by Diane of beadsouk



The preparations for Christmas are as important as the festivities themselves to many people and have been that way for centuries.  The weeks leading up to Christmas have been called either Christmas Fast or Advent.  Starting on the fourth Sunday before Christmas, people were not supposed to eat any meat and those weeks were used as a time for both spiritual and worldly preparations for the arrival of Christmas.  In the rural society of old, the most important task was the preparation of the autumn wool and the knitting of woollen garments.  The workers who finished their allotment were rewarded with new Christmas clothes and new sheepskin shoes by their employer.  Those who did not finish, got no new clothes and might be preyed upon and devoured by the Jólakötturinn (the Yule Cat).  It was important to be properly dressed at Christmas!  Having a new set of clothes (and maybe a haircut) is still a tradition in Iceland, although most clothes today are bought and not handmade.



Fairy Tales Wedding Favor Tags – Fairytales Do Come True - Handmade by Nat of Adore By Nat



During the month of December, modern shops and shopping centers are filled with people buying the perfect Christmas gift(s).  However, the custom of giving Yule gifts in Iceland is a fairly modern notion.  Chieftains of old, both in Iceland and abroad, exchanged ornate and costly gifts at Yule.  It was also common, from ancient times onwards, to present the poor with gifts of food at Christmastime.  Ordinary people, however, were not in the habit of giving Christmas presents until the 19th century.  A Christmas tradition of giving a candle to children, and sometimes to everyone in the household, dates back to the early part of that century.   One of the tasks that had to be accomplished before Christmas was the moulding of candles from sheep drippings. Since these candles were rather expensive and gave out much better light  than that from fish-oil lamps that were used every day, it was a very festive moment when the candles were distributed.  As the 19th Century progressed, Christmas presents became more and more common.  Around that time specific advertisements started appearing in newspapers.  The oldest one on record is from 1866 where the New Testament is advertised as a perfect Christmas gift for children and young people.




Tribal Tibetan Dzi Necklace with Purple Amethyst, Green Stone and Carnelian Handmade by Mary of PrettyGonzo 



Christmas cleaning is an important custom.  Some people clean every cupboard, nook and cranny and wash everything that can be washed; others might only change the bedding and wash the floor.  Once the house is clean, a Christmas bath is a necessity - you don’t want to be dirty putting on the new Christmas clothes!  Christmas cleaning is not a new custom in Iceland - it dates back for centuries.  Since in those days people did not have access to all the cleaning materials and running water that modern people now have, the cleaning was different then.  A few days before Christmas, all clothing and bedding had to be hand-washed.  This posed certain problems, as many people did not own a change of bedding or clothing, and therefore had to wait on the bed while the clothes and bedding were washed and dried. People hoped for a good “dry” – a “poor man's dry” – so that the clothes would be dry enough to wear again soon.  After that the furniture was cleaned, along with the floors.  Wooden floors were usually cleaned with sand and the earthen floors swept.  Food containers were washed, and the cutlery and other metal objects in the home were polished with ash. Then it was time to clean the family members.  Water was heated on the fire, poured into a tub, and people either bathed in the tub or washed from head to toe with a washcloth.



Blue Riverstone, Brown Agate and Saddle Leather Double Wrap Bracelet Handmade by Kathy of KatsAllThat



On the night before December 12th it is customary for Icelandic children to put one of their shoes on a window sill with the hope that the Jólasveinarnir (Yule Lads), who come into town, one on each night leading up Christmas, will visit and leave a gift.  The first Yule Lad is Stekkjarstaur (Sheep-Cote Clod) and the last to come to town on December 24 is Kertasnikir (Candle Stealer).  The children must earn the small gifts by being well behaved, or else they run the risk of finding only a potato in their shoe.  For a list of the Yule Lads and their unique traits, click here: Yule Lads



Gorgeous Grandma's Goodies Hand Knit Cotton Dish Towel Oven Hanger Handmade by Sharon of HollyknitterCreation



As was mentioned earlier, Christmas celebrations start at 6 pm on Christmas Eve.  Many people start the festivities by attending Mass, but others sit down to their Christmas dinner when the church bells have rung Christmas in.  Since Christmas Eve is considered a family celebration, most Icelandic families tend to spend that time together and the traditional Christmas dinner is served then (although it can be served on Christmas Day depending on the family).  Traditional main courses are hangikjöt (smoked lamb), hamborgarhryggur (salted pork rib) and various types of game, especially ptarmigan stew, lundi (puffin, sometimes lightly smoked) and roast greylag goose where these are available. These are usually accompanied by a béchamel or mushroom sauce, boiled potatoes and peas, pickled beetroot or red cabbage and jam. A traditional dessert, called jólagrautur (Yule pudding) is served, a rice pudding with raisins and topped with ground cinnamon and sugar.





Pearl, Green and Gold Statement Necklace Handmade by Sharon of BlondePeachJewelry  



Many parties are hosted on Christmas Day through Twelfth Night, which provides opportunities for families and friends to spend time together and share good food and drink.  Cards and board games are often played. On Annar Jóladagur (Boxing Day, December 26) public entertainment (which is considered inappropriate on Christmas Eve/Day) is now allowed and there is much dancing in the streets.  Gamlárskvöld (New Year's Eve) is one of the most important nights of the year in Iceland since there are several magical traditions that are supposed to happen on it:  cows are able to talk, seals take on human form, the dead rise from their graves, and the Huldufólk (elves) move house.  Bonfires have been lit on Gamlárskvöld since the late 1700s and big fireworks displays bring in the New Year. This is called sprengja út árið or 'blowing out the year'.  Þrettándinn (Epiphany, January 6th) is the last day of Yule, celebrated with bonfires and Huldufólk dances. Many of the magical traditions associated with New Year's Eve are also supposed to happen at Þrettándinn.


Merry Christmas/Yule/Jól in Icelandic is Gleðileg jól.





Red Rose Coordinating Bracelet and Earring Set Handmade by Julie and Blu of Blue Morning Expressions 



Now, onto the Countdown to Christmas 2016 - Week 6, filled with artisan handmade items (see above and below), perfect ideas for Christmas gift giving.


With the fast approaching gift giving season in mind, Julie and Blu of Blue Morning Expressions are hosting a twelve-week Countdown to Christmas 2016 on their The Blu Print blog. The twelve week time period was chosen to correspond with the Christmas carol “The Twelve Days of Christmas.”  This week, there were 60 shares by artists of a wide range of handmade gift ideas:  jewelry of all types, pet themed gifts, crocheted and sewn beauties, favor tags, wooden items, photography, lampwork beads and a whole host of other items.



Fire Orange Berries Hang from a Tree in Southern California Photograph / Wall Art Handmade by Colleen of ButterflyintheAttic



Shop owners on Indiemade, ArtFire, Zibbet, Etsy, SupaDupa, stand alone websites and the like are welcome to share up to three gift items on the Countdown between Friday afternoon at 12:00 p.m. (Eastern time) and Sunday night at 11:59 p.m.  Then a new collection of gift items will begin again the next Friday.  This will continue until the second week in December.  The items shared need to be G-rated.


If you share items on the Countdown to Christmas, you MUST promote the collection and EACH item on at least one social network site, preferably Pinterest where the items can be easily seen and then saved again.  It's only fair to promote each of the participants who have promoted you!



Chanukah Earrings with Menorah Charms Handmade by Linda of lindab142



In addition to saving each item from the Countdown collection to my Pinterest board and Wanelo collection, I decided to share one item from each of the artists who participated. Here are the rest of the items I’m featuring this week, in an order that was arranged by assigning each item a number and then drawing numbers from my trusty “numbers” bowl. Enjoy!



Unakite and Red Jasper Gemstone Necklace Handmade by Connie of Thesingingbeader




Peace, Love, Pets Embroidered Womens Sweatshirt - Small - Handmade by Mary of SimpleEmbroiderySew



Unique Heart In My Hand Wing Earrings Handmade by Barbara of SolanaKaiDesigns




Ribbed Cuff Winter Hat in Wine Red Soft Boucle Yarn Handmade by Ruth of RSSDesignsInFiber




Alice in Wonderland Charm Necklace Handmade by Linda of TreasuresofJewels




Kelly Green Tartan Plaid Pet Scrunchie Neck Ruffle Handmade by Donna of SewAmazin




Fleece Snowman Christmas Ornament Handmade by Nancy of Wyverndesigns 



Hand Knit Autumn Scarf Handmade by Cathy of CraftingMemories1




Red Art Glass Charm Large Hole Lampwork Slider Bracelet Bead Silver Handmade by Charlotte of Covergirlbeads




Motocross Dirtbike Motorcycle Christmas Ornament Handmade From Birch Wood By KevsKrafts




Copper Dog Paw Print and Hearts Dog Rescue Earrings Handmade by Catherine of Shadow Dog Designs




I hope you have enjoyed this sampling of some of the handmade gift items that can be found in the Countdown collection hosted by Julie and Blu of Blue Morning Expressions. To see all the items in the collection, please click here: Countdown to Christmas 2016 - Week 6.  I hope that at least one, maybe more, items piqued your interest and made its way to your shopping list.


What will week 7 bring?  MORE handmade and vintage beauties!  I, for one, am looking forward to it!


If you are so inclined, please make my day and leave a comment (:  Also any promotion will be greatly appreciated by everyone featured in this post.  Thank you!



In case you missed the posts from the past weeks, here are links to take you there:


Countdown to Christmas - Week 1 - Norway

Countdown to Christmas - Week 2 - Italy

Countdown to Christmas - Week 3 - Ukraine

Countdown to Christmas - Week 4 - Kenya

Countdown to Christmas - Week 5 - Portugal


My contact information:


Indiemade shop:  ShadowDogDesigns

Indiemade blog:  ShadowDogDesigns' Blog

Artfire studio:  ShadowDogDesigns

ArtFire Blog:  ShadowDogDesigns' Blog

Google+:  Catherine W

Facebook:  ShadowDogDesigns - Jewelry

Twitter:  ShadowDogDesign

Pinterest:  Shadow Dog Designs

Wanelo:  ShadowDog

Amazine:  ShadowDogDesigns

Rebelmouse:  ShadowDogDesigns

Flickr:  Shadow Dog Designs' Photostream



Beautifully Unique Handmade Jewelry

for the Discerning Woman


» Share:


Well ...

That sure was interesting! Cleaning once a year. Bathing once a year. Sitting naked on the bed until your clothes dry. Potatoes in your shoes. Blu wants to know that the Yule Cat is that you speak of. Haha to the advertisement in the paper. This was completely fascinating and fun. Thank you for giving us the history of Christmas in Iceland, and thank you for including my rose bracelet set. Have shared everywhere. J

Fascinating facts!

My mother must have been from Iceland. She went on a cleaning frenzy every Christmas. lolol Fun to read, Catherine. Thank you for showing my unakite jasper necklace! Will share.


Beautiful selections, Catherine. Thank you so much for including my scarf. Shared.

You learn something new every day!

Thanks so much for writing this informative blog post, Catherine! It's so interesting to learn how people and communities create traditions around the world. I was lucky to spend a New Year's Eve in London. Now I want to spend one in Iceland. Sounds like a blast - literally and figuratively! I also appreciate you including my earrings. Will share this post now!

Thank you!

Another week of beautiful gift ideas for the holidays - each week just gets better and better! Thank you for including Keli and our Green Plaid scrunchie ruffle!

Iceland Christmas traditions

Loved reading this interesting post! Thank you for including my necklace. Promoted.

Beautiful handmade gift ideas!

Beautiful selection of handmade gift ideas! Thanks for including my lampwork slider bead.

Loved reading your post,

Loved reading your post, great selections for Christmas gifts, thank you for including my coin pendant, will share.

Icy Fun Christmas.

Another wonderful tradition you have shared with the group. Thank you Catherine for all the research, and for the great listings of handmade items. Will be sharing.

Great Blog

I love to learn about the Christmas customs for different countries. Thank you Catherine for sharing. Thanks for including my necklace. Off to share....

Great Reading - and Wonderful Picks!

Thanks, Catherine, for this great blog post. Gonzo now has a new goal in life - to be a Yule Cat, but one who collects treats from workers who don't finish on time, rather than one who eats the workers. :) I like the idea of Yule Lads myself. lol. So much fun! Also, great picks, and I thank you for including my Tibetan Dzi bead necklace with them. Will be sharing! Treats to the Noble One from Le Gonze.

Another fun reading about

Another fun reading about Christmas. Thank you for including my fairy tale tags. Off to share.


This is so interesting Iceland people work hard to celebrate Christmas ... it's kind of like preparations for Passover.

Thanks so much for including my menorah earrings. Off to share.

Thank you

Thank you for featuring my photograph in this fun and informative post. I am really enjoying this season and it has made very determined to start celebrating Christmas this year with the old traditions I enjoyed as a child and young adult.
Promoted :)
Have a blessed day

More fun Handmade!

Always interesting to hear about traditions in other cultures! - And Iceland is interesting no matter how you look at it! Thanks for including my Wine Red Handmade Winter Hat - and all the other Handmade!!

Thank you, everyone!

Many thanks for all the wonderful comments! Am so glad you enjoyed reading about the Christmas customs in Iceland. Seems some of you got as many chuckles out of them as I did! Wishing all many sales!

Post new comment

The content of this field is kept private and will not be shown publicly.
To help us prevent spam, please prove you're human by typing the words you see here.