Iceland Cultures, People and Traditions Guide

Iceland Cultures, People and Traditions Guide

Icelandic culture is primarily defined by their history and the cultural traditions and ties from their roots. Iceland was settled by Norsemen after the then-king of Norway began persecuting and targeting specific members of Norway’s Viking population.

Iceland has long been proud of its heritage, and the country does a lot to preserve its historical roots. This history and the pride in their cultural history has ended up giving Icelanders a pretty recognizable and strong sense of culture in the arts, food, literature, and their language. 

This historical integration creates a unique mix when combined with the femme-forward, tech-savvy modern Icelander that we know today.

Some of the factors that affect the culture in iceland include these.

  • Economic history
  • Technology
  • Geography
  • Fashion
  • Climate
  • Focus on feminism
  • Norse culture
  • Language

We will talk about how each of these has impacted Icelandic culture over the years throughout this article. By the end, you will have a thorough idea of what Icelandic culture is and how it has developed.

What are the Traditions of Iceland?

Here is the list of traditions of Iceland.

  • Bondadagur: Bondadagur roughly translates to ‘Husband’s Day.’ However, it isn’t only a day for married people, which is appropriate in Iceland. It is a day to celebrate your male partner if you have one. You can celebrate with your husband, boyfriend, or fiance. It takes place on the 25th of January, or the first day of Þorri on the fourth month in winter if you use the ancient Norse calendar.
  • Thorrablot: Thorrablot is one of the ancient religious holidays celebrated by Icelanders when they originally worshiped the pagan gods of Iceland, largely associated with Norse mythology in the past. If you celebrate it now, it is typically called a midwinter feast, celebrated sometime between January 21 and February 19. During the celebration, you are meant to toast the old gods. Some Icelanders now use Thorrablot as an excellent excuse to hearken back to their roots and get together with family. However, it was abolished during the rise of Christianity in Iceland. It wasn’t until the 19th century that it was resurrected and still continues to be celebrated.
  • Konudagur: There are many holidays during the winter in Iceland since there isn’t too much else you can do here during the coldest months of the year. This holiday is the converse of Bondadagur, Women’s or Wive’s Day. It lands on February 24th. The men can do anything for the women in their lives, including hosting a special dinner, giving them flowers, treats or bringing them coffee.
  • Twelfth Night: Christmas is such a popular holiday in Iceland that it isn’t only marked with one day of the year. Instead, Christmas is celebrated for twelve nights, with various traditions happening each night. The Twelfth Night is the last day of Christmas and features bonfires, fireworks, and drinking until dawn.
  • Bolludagur: Bolludagur is one of the sweetest holidays the country celebrates, quite literally. It translates to Cream Bun Day and is associated with Fastelavn. Fastelavn is a carnival festival celebrated before Lent. The focus of this day is going out and celebrating with a sweet cream bun filled full of cream and jam, often topped with chocolate.
  • Bjordagur: You couldn’t have a day in Iceland to celebrate cream buns without having a day set aside expressly for beer. Although Iceland is one of many countries that has experienced prohibition, it is one of the only ones that have a holiday to celebrate the end of it. Icelanders celebrate Beer Day on March 1st to honor the removal of the prohibition of 74 years of beer ban, from 1915 to 1989. 

How is Family Life in Iceland Culture?

Family is an essential facet of Icelandic culture, mainly because the country is so tiny. Even though the country is small, the population steadily grows because Icelandic families are often more extensive than the average European country. An Icelandic household usually totals 2.57 people per house compared to 2.38 people in France and 2.5 in Spain.

Families are often quite close to each other, both geographically and relationally. It is not typical for extended families to live together in units. However, the extended family will take part in childcare and family support. 

Like almost every other facet of Icelandic culture, families are rooted in history. Many families have their family histories charted back to the ancestors that settled in Iceland, some even before that.

Does Iceland Culture value marriage?

Iceland is known as one of the most feminist-forward cultures in the world. Because of this and many other cultural norms unique to life in Iceland, some social scientists have called Iceland the culture moving beyond marriage.

In Iceland, marriage is very optional, and there is very little social pressure to have to get married. The percentage of unmarried mothers (note: that is not single mothers as that is not a qualitative phrase used in Iceland) is about 67%. Where that statistic might be considered shameful in some countries, in Iceland, it gives them a sense of pride.

How is Teenage Life in Iceland Culture?

The life of a young adult to a teenager involves being a self-sufficient individual. Housework is shared by the entire family, and kids are expected to clean their bedroom, vacuum, sweep, change the linen, do the laundry, cook, and clean.

Independence and free-thinking are a large part of a teenager’s life in Iceland. They often have plenty of time to pursue hobbies such as hiking, reading, extracurriculars, and chess, which is quite popular in Iceland.

Since school is such a big part of the life of a teenager, their typical relationship with their teachers is highly influential. It is typically casual and friendly since the academic atmosphere is one of support that encourages creativity. There are often a plethora of clubs in schools based around the arts and activities, such as photography, radio, mountaineering, and even cooking.

How is Social Life in Iceland Culture?

Since family is so important to most Icelandic people, social lives are generally somewhat centered around the family. This is starting to shift slightly as the consumer economy grows, particularly in the more urban settings. 

What is the place of religion in Iceland Traditions?

Almost all Icelanders consider themselves members to some degree of the Lutheran State Church. This includes about 80% of the population of Iceland. Another 5% of the total population is registered under Christian denominations. Finally, another 5% of people practice the traditional Norse religion called ásatrú.

Certain traditions, particularly the holidays that an Icelander will celebrate, are determined by their religion. That means that progressively fewer Icelanders take part in the holidays of the Vikings honoring the Norse gods and why Christmas has become so popular.

Does Iceland have uncommon traditions?

Yes, Iceland has a plethora of uncommon traditions that primarily hail from its Viking roots. For example, there is Sjómannadagur, a traditional festival held each year called the ‘Festival of the Sea’ entirely dedicated to the seamen of Iceland since they make up such an influential part of Icelandic culture.

Does Iceland celebrate Christmas?

Yes, Icelanders do celebrate Christmas. In fact, it is one of the most popular holidays of the year. Icelanders often start to celebrate on the first day of Advent and continue through the 26th of December.

What are the holidays in Icelandic Culture?

Due to globalization, Icelandic cultural holidays have changed quite a bit. The old Norse calendar is partially in use, where some of the traditional holidays mentioned above originate. For example, Men’s and Women’s Day are the same on the original Norse calendar.

Other parts of Icelandic cultural traditions include having a mid-winter feast with traditional foods and the summer solstice celebrations.

What are the traditional Icelandic Foods?

The Icelandic diet is based primarily around the fact that Icelanders live on an island that isn’t very large, so the ocean is always close by. As a result, they eat a lot of seafood and raise quite a bit of livestock in the Central Highlands. Common fish varieties include haddock, cod, halibut, and salmon.

Iceland has a lot of amazing foods that set its diet apart from other countries. For example, one of the popular dishes is smoked mutton, which they call hangikjöt. That isn’t just a typical dish either, but the traditional meal they serve on Christmas Day. 

Other traditional Icelandic foods include kleinur, a twisted donut, and the pylsa, an Icelandic hot dog. Perhaps the most famous of the Icelandic foods is the hákarl. 

Hákarl is a piece of fermented shark that is effectively rotten. Some people say it tastes slightly nutty, sweet, and only a little fishy. Nowadays, Icelanders almost exclusively eat this to stay in touch with their roots.

How is Iceland’s Communication Culture?

The official language in Iceland is Icelandic. It is a West-Nordic language with some Germanic and Indo-European roots. It originally comes from the oldest Nordic language tracked back to Scandinavia between 200 and 800 A.D. 

It became identified as a western Nordic language since the Norsemen didn’t end up settling in Iceland until, after the year 793, the language was separated into eastern and western factions.

Other than Icelandic, other languages like English, Danish, and German are also widely spoken. Since very few people worldwide speak Icelandic, it is mandatory to learn other languages in school. 

The communication culture in Iceland may seem reserved at first. However, as you continue to converse, you will find that they tend to be very friendly, even while wearing more of a neutral expression. Icelanders are known to prefer a direct communication style, with honesty being a high priority in their culture.

How is Iceland Culture Formed?

Icelandic culture has been in the act of forming, growing, and adapting from the moment that the Norsemen stepped on Icelandic shores and decided to settle there in 870 AD. Since then, Icelandic people have been shaped by the extreme geography, the will to survive and thrive, and the cold climate typical in the country.

How does Geography Affect Iceland Culture?

The geography of Iceland impacts its culture because of its extremeness. The geography of Iceland is largely formed from volcanic activity, some of it ancient and unremembered, others recent and terrifying. Lava flows have created a lot of the shape and color of Iceland. 

It can make it seem cold and bleak in some areas. But, in others, minerals and fertile topsoil have been pushed by the forces of nature, and green rolling hills of grassland thrive, creating a place for farmers and ranchers to raise livestock.

How does Climate Affect Icelandic Culture?

Iceland’s climate has primarily affected Icelandic culture, sometimes exciting and unforeseen ways. It is quite a cold country but relatively temperate compared to the large swings in the temperature you might see in other parts of the world.

Icelanders seem to identify with their climate, claiming a space in the cold as one of their own and taking pride in their ability to not only survive in it but thrive. For example, even in such a cold climate, Icelandic people have been voted to be one of the happiest countries in the world many years in a row.

What is the prominence of artworks in Iceland Culture?

Even though Iceland doesn’t have a substantial population, it has still made moves in the art world, many recognized worldwide. No matter what facet of the arts, there have been Icelanders who have committed their lifetimes to produce stunning and memorable pieces. Here are some lists of the most modern famous or beloved works of art in their categories.

Here are the essential songs in Iceland culture.

  1. Vor í Vaglaskógi, KALEO 
  2. Little Talks, Of Monsters and Men
  3. Possibly Maybe, Björk

Here are the essential movies in Iceland culture.

  1. Angels of the Universe, Friðrik Þór Friðriksson
  2. The Sea, Baltasar Kormákur
  3. Stormy Weather, Sólveig Anspach

Here are the essential poems in Icelandic culture.

  1. Járn og gúmmí, Magnús Sigurðsson
  2. Ísland, Jónas Hallgrímsson
  3. Svarthvít axlabönd, Gyrðir Elíasson

Here are the essential novels in Iceland culture.

  1. Independent People, Halldór Laxness
  2. Sagas of Icelanders, Varied
  3. The Reckoning, Yrsa Sigurðardóttir