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Iceland Mag

Food & Drink

Traditional smoked lamb hangs onto its place on the tables of Icelanders over Christmas

By Staff

  • The traditional Icelandic christmas dinner Smoked lamb with potatoes, green peas and white sauce, "uppstúf". Photo/

Historically the traditional Icelandic Christmas dinner is Hangikjöt, smoked leg of lamb, and according to a new study by the polling firm MMR this traditional holiday dish maintains its place on the Christmas tables of Icelanders. While it has been forced to give way to smoked ham on Christmas Eve, it is still the preferred dinner on Chistmas Day. Hamborgarhryggur, smoked rack of pork, is the most popular dish on Christmas Eve.

American traditions fail to make real inroads
It is particularly interesting to note that the American tradition of eating turkey does not seem to be making real inroads. Only 9.6% of Icelanders will be having turkey on Christmas Eve, and 4.4% on Christmas Day.

Read more: How to do Christmas like an Icelander

Hamborgarhryggur, Christmas food

Hamborgarhryggur Smoked rack of pork, glazed with honey. The sides can include a Waldorf salad, carrots, glazed potatoes or Hasselback potatoes. Photo/

According to MMR two thirds of Icelanders, 67.9% will eat Hangikjöt on Christmas Day, and nearly half, 46.4% will have smoked rack of pork on Christmas Eve. These proportions have remained relatively stable over the past six years, according to previous polls by MMR. However, various "other" dishes have been increasing in popularity every year, rising from 14.2% in 2010 to 21.9% in 2016 suggesting a greater variety in Icelanders' choice of Christmas dishes.

A Danish tradition, dating back to the 40s
Since the 1940s salted and smoked pork has been making inroads on the Christmas tables of Icelanders. Smoked rack of pork, a Danish Christmas dish, gradually becoming the Holiday dish of choice. Prior to this smoked lamb was the single most common dish on Christmas Eve, although grouse was also quite popular.

Read more: A taste of Iceland: Enjoy home-made 'jólakaka' with your coffee

While these dishes gave way to Danish and Scandinavian inspired pork and ham, the traditional Icelandic dishes retained their place, as the MMR polls reveal. Grouse will be on the tables of 8% of Icelanders on Christmas Eve.

Older people hang onto the Hangikjöt
The MMR poll shows that traditional Hangikjöt is particularly popular among older generations than the younger. Of those older than 68 79% will have smoked lamb on Christmas Day, while just 58% of those who are younger than 29. Those younger are more likely to report they are having something "other", a non-traditional dish on both Christmas Eve and Christmas Day.

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