Iceland Mag

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Iceland Mag


11 Icelandic phrases you need to learn for Christmas

By Sara McMahon

  • Gleðileg jól! Learn some Icelandic phrases for the Yuletide. Photo/GVA

Planning to visit Iceland during the Christmas holidays? Well, here are a few Icelandic phrases that you are bound to need at one time or another during your stay.


1. “Gleðileg jól!”
Merry Christmas! - Icelanders begin to wish one another a merry Christmas as soon as the first Sunday of Advent arrives, so feel free to throw this phrase around at will.

2. “Gleðilegt nýtt ár!”
Happy New Year! - You’ll need to know this one if you plan on staying between Christmas and New Year’s Eve.

3. “Einn jólabjór, takk.”
One Christmas beer, thank you. – Over the past few years the arrival of the Christmas brews has become a holiday staple in Iceland. Local and international breweries offer a special range of Christmas beers and ciders that taste of cinnamon, apples and other things nice. The beers are available in Vínbúðin, local restaurants and bars.

4. “Áttu til hangikjöt?”
Do you have any smoked meat? – Hangikjöt is an Icelandic Christmas favourite. It’s made from smoked lamb, mutton or horse meat and usually served either hot or cold, traditionally with potatoes in white sauce, or in slices on laufabrauð or flatbrauð. In the olden days meat was often preserved by hanging it from the rafters of a smoking shed – hence the name: Hangikjöt means hung meat.

5. “Má ég fá piparköku?”
Can I have a ginger bread cookie? – These tasty, little cookies ring in Christmas. Children love them and grown-ups do too.

6. "Get ég fengið heitt kakó með rjóma?"
Can I have a cup of hot cocoa with whipped cream, please? – It can get cold outside in December (-3 to 3 degrees Celsius (26 to 37 Fahrenheit). The best thing about the cold is coming in from it and warming up with a delicious cup of hot chocolate, topped with a dollop of rich cream. Yumm”

7. “Getur þú pakkað þessu inn?”
Could you wrap this up? – Most stores and boutiques will wrap up your gifts for free – which saves both time and money. Win-win!

8. “Get ég fengið skiptimiða?”
Could you put a return label on the gift? – When buying Christmas gifts in Iceland, make sure to ask for a customer return label, just in case the gift did not hit the mark.

9.  “Verða rauð jól í ár?”
Do you expect a snowless Christmas this year? – Every year, Icelanders (mostly Southerners) hope and dream of a white Christmas because in Iceland, it really isn’t Christmas unless the ground outside is covered in beautiful, white snow. A snowless Christmas is called ‘a red Christmas’, or rauð jól.

10. “Áttu malt og appelsín?”
Do you have malt and appelsín? - Once a year, Icelanders will mix two popular soft drinks together to create what’s called ‘jólaöl’, meaning Christmas ale (non-alcoholic). Malt and appelsín are drunk separately all year around, but ‘jólaöl’ is reserved for Christmas only. Every family has their very own secret ‘jólaöl’ recipe and the ratio between malt and appelsín differs from one family to the next.

11. “Bjóðið þið upp á kæsta skötu?”
Do you serve fermented skate? – Another Christmas specialty in Iceland is the fermented skate, traditionally eaten on St. Þorlákur’s Day (Þorláksmessa) on December 23. The dish has a rather pungent smell which will linger on for days. Luckily it doesn’t taste quite as bad as it smells.


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