Smoked pork and Christmas presents

In Iceland on Christmas Eve. Christmas officially begins at 6 pm. By then families will have gathered around the dinner table to have smoked pork and afterwards they open presents.

Family members of all ages dress up in their finest clothes, after a long and relaxing Christmas bath, before dinner starts.

A smoked pork roast, glazed with sugar and decorated with pineapple according to a Danish tradition, will be on many dinner tables in Iceland. Side dishes include sugar-coated potatoes, green beans, red cabbage and a salad made of whipped cream, walnuts, celery and grapes. A popular first course is cream of asparagus and home made ice cream is often eaten as dessert. 

Roasted ptarmigan is a traditional Icelandic Christmas dinner, originally more common among poorer families. Roasted goose is also a popular dinner at Christmas and reindeer steak is gaining popularity.

Christmas ale, a mixture of orange soda and malt, is the traditional Christmas drink in Iceland, although in recent years many adults prefer wine.

After a three-course meal, the presents that have been stacked underneath the Christmas tree, are opened. Traditionally Christmas cards are not opened until Christmas Eve.

Before Christmas Eve the whole house has to be cleaned and the bed sheets washed. Many people get books for Christmas, and after chatting and playing board games until midnight or longer, they creep in between their freshly washed sheets and browse through their new books.

Some families go to church at 6 pm on Christmas Eve and have dinner afterwards; others might attend a midnight mass. Many go to the graveyard before dinner to place a candle on the graves of loved ones that have passed away and honor their memory.

A typical lunch on December 24 is rice pudding. An almond is hidden in the saucepan and the person who finds the almond in his or her rice pudding gets a little surprise.