A Clear Starting Date
Have you ever been to a very busy and perhaps very commercialised city and found that (or at least got the impression that) Christmas just seems to arrive earlier and earlier, November to October, after some years?
The first Sunday of December marks the beginning of Advent. On this day, many Icelanders will light a single candle on a special advent candelabra of 4, known as an Advent Wreath, for each following Sunday. Another popular candelabra holds seven candles in a triangle shape. They are usually electric and placed on a windowsill. The first Sunday also marks the point at which the festivities begin, and people begin to put up Christmas decorations.
Decorations and Daylight
Decorations: Christmas decorations are essential in Iceland, and everybody decorates. Lights were in the windows; candles were in the home. There is a strong emphasis on light, and decorations are taken down, and normal activities are resumed on January 6th, as is customary in other countries. Interestingly, the Christmas Tree is not decorated until December 23rd, the day before Christmas. It is left decorated for 13 days until January 6th
Much of the emphasis on light stems from the darkness of December and the small amount of daylight. December 24th will see the sunrise at 11:22 and set at 15:32, giving a total daylight period of 4h 9m and 18s. We use the term “daylight” generously since the solar noon will see the sun only rise 2.5 degrees off of the horizon.
Decorated Leaf Bread
An important tradition in which many families in Iceland engage is the making and decoration of Laufabraud. Laufabraud is a thin, unleavened wafer made principally from wheat flour and butter and/or mutton fat. Families get together and cut shapes and patterns, which can sometimes get fantastically intricate. They begin to look like leaves, hence the name. Some of the prettiest ones are made into Christmas decorations in themselves!
Want to make some? Here is a recipe!