Our White Christmas in Iceland


Living here in Neskaupstadur, a small town in a fjord in Eastern Iceland, is awesome!

We have been here for a month now and are totally settled in. Kel and I are the cleaning couple of the hotel. We basically clean the floors of the kitchen and restaurant as well as cleaning the hotel rooms which is very easy since all of the guests are tidy! We work for 5 hours a day and have two days off which is nice.

One thing I love to do in my free time is to swim in the outdoor heated pool. It is a surreal feeling swimming in the warm water and through the steam rising seeing a snowy mountain behind you and a mountain in the distance beyond the freezing cold ocean. Sometimes it is even snowing while I’m swimming! Before you get into the pool you have to have a shower before putting on your swimmers (so they can use less chemicals in the pool), then quickly run from the change rooms to the pool or hot tubs. Those few seconds are absolutely freeeeezing until you jump into the pool and you warm up. There are also three hot tubs with a different heat in each so that is relaxing to sit in one of those after some laps in the pool. Not many people use the pool either and most times I go no one else is swimming so it is nice and calm and peaceful!

Getting a haircut before Christmas is a big tradition here. Christmas parties are a fancy affair where everyone dresses up in fancy clothes. We were kindly offered free haircuts by the hotel which was so nice since they know we are poor budget travellers haha. At first we all thought this tradition was made up and it was a ploy to clean our look up haha but it’s true! And it was soooooo nice to get a haircut after a very long time. Kel, of course, was the only one who didn’t get a haircut despite lots of encouragement from me and some of the others.

We were lucky enough to have a beautiful white Christmas spent with our Icelandic family. Christmas is a big occasion in Iceland and lasts for 27 days. I can’t remember the specifics but instead of Santa Claus, there are 13 ‘yule lads’ kind of like Santa trolls and each one is cheeky. For the first 13 days until Christmas eve, one yule lad comes each day and kids get a present each day leading up to Christmas, with the biggest one left for Christmas Eve! For us in Australia, our big day is Christmas day but Christmas Eve is the bigger day here. Well, night. 6pm to be exact. The church bells ring over the radio if you can’t hear them from the church and that is when you officially wish everyone ‘Gledileg Jol’ or Merry Christmas.

Kel, Maja (Polish girl), Andy (Jackson Hole, Wyoming), Jacob (Albuquerque, New Mexico) and I were fortunate enough to be invited to Christmas Eve dinner at the family’s beautiful farm house with Gurri, Thora, Hakon (their son) and Hafsteinn (Hakon’s partner). It was a perfect snowy day with clear skies and a crisp -13 degrees Celsius! The house was decorated in Christmas ornaments and lights and the big Christmas tree had many presents underneath it. Little did we know, many of those presents were for us! Lots of them! Maja and I even got hand-knitted gloves from Grandma Sila! It was really so kind and thoughtful of them (as well as the rest of the hotel staff who got us something).

Christmas presents were open after our big dinner. We had pork which was boiled first before baked in the oven with sides of peas, corn, potato salad, caramelised potatoes, red cabbage, flat bread and of course… gravy! Every Icelandic dish must have some kind of sauce we’ve learnt haha. Anyway, dinner was delicious!! We all had to have seconds and then we were too full. Until we saw the dessert. Andy had made a trifle. Not just any trifle. It was made from brownies, choc mousse, white choc mousse, choc bits, whipped cream, caramel sauce and candied pecans on top. My goodness. I also made some chocolate truffles. We had a bit of a break from food until about 11pm when we went to Grandma Sila’s house where the table was laden with cake upon cake and hot chocolate (with whipped cream of course). First thing I thought: how am I going to fit any more food in! I had to try some of these Icelandic cakes! Don’t worry, I didn’t explode haha. More family came at that time and we quickly learned how to say ‘Gledileg Jol’.

One of Hakon’s younger cousins was showing Kel and me her most favourite Christmas present – a playstation game boy thingymabob – and she was about 7 years old and her English accent was unbelievably good. That’s one thing we’ve realised while being here. Even little kids know many English words and can have a conversation. It’s so good! Perhaps it’s because a lot of TV shows are in English with Icelandic subtitles but I’m not sure. One thing is for sure though, learning Icelandic is VERY hard!! There are all these different types of sounds which are so foreign to us it takes a lottttt of practice. Thankfully yes is easy – sounds like yow, no sounds like neigh and thank you is Tak!

After Christmas Eve dinner, we went to two more Christmas celebrations and I’m sure the Icelanders had even more. It was a big food occasion and I think we must’ve all put on a couple of kilos at least!!! Kel and I got to skype both our families on their Christmas day which was really nice to see everyone. Of course despite our lovely Christmas we missed them too!!

Many Tak’s (haha) to our Icelandic family for a really great Christmas. From the free haircuts, many thoughtful presents, food, food and more glorious food, the time off, inviting us to family events and just making Christmas so special for us, thank you!!!!!

Also thanks to Dad for our chocolate Christmas basket too 🙂 that was a nice surprise!!

And thanks to our workaway buddies. It was nice to spend Christmas with you guys too 🙂 thanks Maja for the dress!




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