Icelandic food has a bad rep. I think we can blame the fermented shark and pickled ram testicles for that. We eat a lot of great things though and some of the best things we eat around Christmas.
Nowadays there’s no such thing as a typical Icelandic Christmas dinner. At my mom’s house we usually (actually always – my sisters and brother would probably stage a protest if my mum would dare to stray away from this tradition) eat roasted pork on Christmas eve with a buffet of pickled and fresh side dishes. Other families eat smoked pork, lamb, turkey, beef or whatever the tradition is in their home. The smoked pork is probably one of the more popular dishes though.
A lot of people also eat ptarmigans on Christmas eve but I’ve never had them and don’t know anything about them so I can’t really tell you much about that. Those who do eat them are almost religious about it though.
On Christmas day most families eat what we called Hangikjöt, smoked lamb, which is served cold with white sweet bechamel sauce and potatoes. We also eat beautifully decorated deep fried wheat cakes called laufabrauð although it depends on the family whether or not they are served.
Christmas in Iceland is family time and most people don’t go out for dinner during the holidays. My mom is in the kitchen more or less all day on Christmas eve and we enjoy a beautiful three course meal where everything is made from scratch in our nicest attire. We eat brussel sprouts from her garden and she even makes her own ice cream. It’s the best meal of the year.
All through December people attend special Christmas buffets where you get a taste of various Christmas treats (gravlax, pickled herring, pate and various meats) and most restaurants in Reykjavík add something at least a little bit festive to their menu. Most people bake at least a few kinds of Christmas cookies and then all through December they are on offer in people’s homes and workplaces. And clementines, lots of clementines.