The Christian Science Monitor

Trolls, ogres, and giant cats: How Iceland celebrates Christmas

Auður Ösp explains Icelandic holiday traditions during a Christmas tour at her home. Source: Melanie Stetson Freeman/Staff

Dozens of red and white-wax candles flicker in the home of Auður Ösp, in a bright red dress, her Christmas best, as she seats 10 strangers around her dining room table.

There are old-fashioned Christmas cards hung across a string by Santa clips. The table is set with reindeer figurines and snow-dusted pine trees, as our tour group sits down to learn about the many Icelandic traditions at Christmas, called Jól in Icelandic.

But lest anyone be confused, this isn’t the twinkling wonderland of a German Christmas, nor are the Christmas characters anything like jolly Santa Claus, we are about

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