Monday, June 17, 2024

Icelanders Decorate And Visit The Graves Of Loved Ones On Christmas Eve

The Christmas season in Iceland is a fascinating blend of religious customs and traditional folklore. Similar to many other countries, Iceland observes Christmas (known as Jól in Icelandic) with a focus on delicious food and exchanging gifts with loved ones. However, unlike most nations that feature a single Father Christmas or Santa Claus character, Icelandic children are privileged to be visited by 13 Yule Lads.

Icelanders Decorate And Visit The Graves Of Loved Ones
Photo Credit: Amy Harris/The Travel Addict

We saw one of the most gorgeous Christmas traditions in Iceland when we visited the country in December leading up to the holidays. The cemeteries are adorned with lights and decorated gravestones. This is because remembering and honoring loved ones is a significant aspect of the Yuletide season for Icelanders.

Icelanders Decorate And Visit The Graves Of Loved Ones
Photo Credit: Amy Harris/The Travel Addict

In the weeks leading up to Christmas Eve, families gather at the graves of their friends and family. They place candles or adorn the graves with electric Christmas lights as a gesture of respect and a poignant expression that they are remembered and dearly missed.

Icelanders Decorate And Visit The Graves Of Loved Ones
Photo Credit: Amy Harris/The Travel Addict

On the December 24th, it’s traditional for Icelanders to visit graveyards and light a candle on the graves of lost loved ones. This is so fundamental to Christmas in Iceland that traffic around graveyards skyrockets on Christmas Eve and the police have to control the mess.

Icelanders Decorate And Visit The Graves Of Loved Ones
Photo Credit: Amy Harris/The Travel Addict

The scene was beautiful and almost magical to experience in person at a cemetery outside of the capital city of Reykjavík when we visited to take photos as the sun was rising for the few hours of daylight during the winter months.

Iceland is popular choice for tourists in the winter months to try to catch a glimpse of the Northern Lights so if you are the country during December make sure to stop and take in the majesty of this Icelandic holiday tradition.

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Amy Harris
Amy Harris is a writer and photographer who has been traveling for 20 years and flown over 2 million miles to visit over 80 countries on 6 continents. She is a freelance photographer for Invision by Associated Press, AP Images and Rex/Shutterstock. Her work can be seen in various publications and websites including: Rolling Stone, AP Images, National Geographic Books, Fodor’s Travel Guides, Forbes.com, Lonely Planet Travel Guides, JetStar magazine, and Delta Sky Magazine.

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