Listen free for 30 days

Listen with a free trial

One credit a month, good for any title to download and keep.
Unlimited listening to the Plus Catalogue - thousands of select Audible Originals, podcasts and audiobooks.
Exclusive member-only deals.
No commitment - cancel anytime.
Buy Now for £6.39

Buy Now for £6.39

Pay using card ending in
By completing your purchase, you agree to Audible's Conditions of Use and authorise Audible to charge your designated card or any other card on file. Please see our Privacy Notice, Cookies Notice and Interest-based Ads Notice.

Summary

Christmas in Iceland is special. Ask any Icelander and they will tell you. It is a time of year when everything pulsates with vibrant activity, and the nation delights in those festive traditions that make them a tribe. Music is all around, friends gather, restaurants are filled with people partaking of festive Yuletide offerings, authors are out and about reading from their new works. Everything pulsates with a vibrant, happy energy. There is even a word for the gleeful excitement one feels when waiting for Christmas — jólaskap, literally “Christmas mood”.

In this book, Alda Sigmundsdóttir invites you on a journey of Iceland’s magical Yuletide season, all the way to New Year’s Eve, and beyond. You will learn about the special foods, traditions and customs that makes Christmas in Iceland so special, and meet a colourful cast of characters that are such an integral part of the Yule. In her inimitable style, and using examples from her own life, Alda gives you not only the modern version of Christmas, but also the historical and cultural background to many of that traditions that are still observed today.

Sample from the book:

Quick question: Did you receive this book as a Christmas gift?

If you answered yes, you will have been party to one of the best-loved Icelandic Yule traditions: giving or receiving a book for Christmas. This tradition is so entrenched in Icelandic society that it feels like it must have been around forever. Not so. It began during World War II, when there were strict limitations on imports, though for some reason the restrictions on imported paper were less severe. The Icelanders were flush with affluence at this time — WWII was referred to as the “blessed war” since the British and later American occupation had brought jobs, and therefore money — but they had few things on which to spend their unprecedented wealth.

Except, well, paper. Only, there was not a whole lot you could do with paper, except…print books? Perfect, since the Icelanders were already intensely proud of their literary heritage, associating it with the glory days of the Sagas and Eddas, before the nation was colonized and driven into poverty and humiliation. In no time at all, books became extremely popular gifts, and indeed were the gift to give at Christmas.

This custom has remained, and today Iceland publishes more books per capita than any other country in the world, almost all of them in the six-or-so weeks leading up to Christmas. This deluge of books that hits the market at that time is known as jólabókaflóðið, or the Christmas book flood.

Make no mistake: Jólabókaflóðið is a big deal. Each year the latest releases receive a massive buzz, in the media and everywhere else — folks discussing which titles are good and which are lame, which are likely to sell and which are not, which book covers are exceptional and which are horrid, which books they can’t wait to read and which they plan to skip. Indeed, one of the most eagerly-awaited publications annually is not a book at all, but rather the yearly Bókatíðindi (Book News) catalogue that lists all titles published in that particular year (provided their publishers have paid for a listing — most do) and which is delivered free to each household in the country. In recent years Bókatíðindi has featured upwards of 600 published titles, though with eBooks and audiobooks added, that number easily exceeds 700 in a given year. Which perhaps does not sound like much in countries with 1,000 times Iceland’s population, but when you factor in that Iceland’s population is a mere 350,000 souls, it is a whole lot.

©2019 Alda Sigmundsdottir (P)2020 Alda Sigmundsdottir

What listeners say about The Little Book of the Icelanders at Christmas

Average customer ratings
Overall
  • 4.5 out of 5 stars
  • 5 Stars
    4
  • 4 Stars
    0
  • 3 Stars
    2
  • 2 Stars
    0
  • 1 Stars
    0
Performance
  • 4.5 out of 5 stars
  • 5 Stars
    5
  • 4 Stars
    0
  • 3 Stars
    1
  • 2 Stars
    0
  • 1 Stars
    0
Story
  • 4.5 out of 5 stars
  • 5 Stars
    4
  • 4 Stars
    0
  • 3 Stars
    2
  • 2 Stars
    0
  • 1 Stars
    0

Reviews - Please select the tabs below to change the source of reviews.

Sort by:
Filter by:
  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars

A Lovely Festive Listen

As the book's title implies, this is a nice short listen that is able to tell us about the traditions of our Atlantic neighbours over the festive period. Listening to stories that Icelanders tell their children is enough reason alone to listen to this book, narrated by the author. And there are recipes too!

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars

Beautiful Christmas book

I had read this book before and it is fast becoming a regular read for me at Christmas time. I really love that there’s an audio version now as it is great to hear the Icelandic pronounced and Alda has such a lovely tone for audio books. It’s a short listen too which is nice if you want some Christmas traditions in an afternoon. It’s certainly getting me in the festive spirit and I plan on listening to this again closer to Christmas Day.

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars

Get your jólaskap on!

I have several of Alda's great and fun 'little books' about Iceland, so it made a change to have this one on Audible, and I listened to it whilst wrapping presents, so it was very festive and aided in getting my jólaskap (Christmas mood) on! This is a fun and fascinating insight into the holiday habits of the Nicelanders, as Alda calls them in some of her books. 40 bite-sized chapters are narrated by the author, in her calm, clear and pleasing voice, each covering a different aspect of the celebrations, giving detail about what (generally) happens nowadays throughout the festive season, and often an insight into the probable reasons for it from Iceland's incredibly difficult, cold and poverty stricken past. Popular traditions and festive foods (some delicious, some awful sounding!) are discussed, with links to recipes for some of the items, which is great if you want to try your hand at your own 'sortir' of cookies! All 13 Yule lads are introduced, as well as their parents and cat, with Alda's trademark humour and irony. A worthwhile and entertaining listen for all Iceland fans (as are all of Alda's other books, both her fun collections of short essays borne of her blog, and also her novel and book about the 2008 financial meltdown) but equally so for any Christmas fanatics (jólabörn) out there, or those with an interest in other cultures' customs. Highly recommended!

Sort by:
Filter by:
  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars
Profile Image for Jutta Müller
  • Jutta Müller
  • 28-12-20

Christmas time, the crazy time

Now is the best time to relax and especially this year, we won’t be disturbed by too many family members. Time to read or listen to a book. Alda Sigmundsdóttir “The little book of the Icelanders at Christmas” is perfect to learn and enjoy this crazy time.
Do you know Icelanders? Do know Christmas? Now combine both elements plus 13 trolls 100.000 cookies and one million lights – you might already recognize this is an adventuress mixture. I can tell you I like Christmas in Iceland, 26 days of craziness and already in November are the first preparations.
The most important ingredient is light: at home and allover the town. Alda concentrates to describe the situation in the capital Reykjavík. Even in the time without the Christmas light it is a very shiny town, but during Christmas is great. Have you ever been to the US during the Holidays? All these decorations in the front yard and around the houses, all the figures, wow. In Reykjavík you will see kilometers of light lines around balconies, trees, houses, over the streets and squares. Light is important for the Icelanders during the four, relatively dark winter months. Alda mentions the history and how horrible the living conditions have been in the tiny dark farmhouses in old days. That explains very well how important light for the Icelanders is. In the houses and apartments are candles from the first of advent.
Besides light is food the second – or the first? – important ingredient for a perfect Christmas. The cookies are baked during December, but some women – perfect housewives – start already in November, the more the better. How many kinds of cookies did you bake? This is an important question. Alda’s grandmother baked five kinds, housewives do seven and up to eight kinds. You can imagine there is a lot of competition between mothers. The next question is: What do we eat at Christmas? There is a long tradition of ptarmigans for the traditional dinner, but times have changed. Alda talks about all these traditions, the importance of meat and the family conflicts and discussions about the “real, and only meal”. Her talks are funny and very informative. If you read the book you will also enjoy the lovely drawings.
And now of course the “Yule lads” thirteen trolls. From the 12th of December they come down from the highlands and visit the people. If you haven’t heard about them, listen to Alda, she knows their characters and tricks.
Finally, the 24th of December has come, and the families are celebrating the next days. After all the stress now is time 25th to relax and read. The best-loved Icelandic Yule traditions: giving or receiving a book for Christmas. During the following days is the best time to read and talk about the new books. There is only one break - New Year’s Eve, again a crazy day of bonfires and firework. Reykjavík is famous for its celebration, every year join thousands of tourists the parties on the hills.
So, now just order the audiobook and enjoy, listen to Alda’s soft and gentle voice, learn about history and traditions, and learn a little bit more about the Icelanders.

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars
Profile Image for K.D. Keenan
  • K.D. Keenan
  • 18-12-20

A Wonderfully Listenable Book and a Treasury of Icelandic Yule Traditions

Alda Sigmundsdottiír has built a deserved reputation for her Little Books about Iceland. Icelandic by birth, she was raised abroad, giving her a unique perspective, both loving and a little amused, on Icelandic culture.

“The Little Book of the Icelandic Yule” is narrated by the author. When an author has a knack for narration, it really adds to the impact of the words. Alda Sigmundsdottir has a good, clear voice that she uses to inform her listener that much more—especially when she is being humorous.

Humor is found throughout the book, tucked here and there like the delicious treats of the Yuletide season. The author loves her country’s traditions, but is not immune to the fact that citizens of other countries might find eating rancid skate less than exciting.

The Yule season in Iceland takes up the better part of two months or more, starting with Advent. Each part of the celebration has its own traditions, decorations, and special foods. Alda Sigmundsdottir details these, along with the older traditions that linger from the grim past, like the 13 mischievous Yule Lads and the Yule Cat that eats anyone who isn’t wearing new clothes they got for Christmas.

“The Little Book of the Icelandic Yule” is a real treat for anyone interested in Iceland, or in Christmas traditions around the world. It was informative—but I also found myself laughing out loud at times.

Full disclosure: I accepted a free copy of the audiobook in exchange for an honest review. Honestly, I loved the book.

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars
Profile Image for T Wallace
  • T Wallace
  • 18-12-20

A Festive Account of Yuletide Traditions in Iceland

Alda Sigmundsdottir has done it again with this addition to her Little Book series on Iceland. Her evocative descriptions of the activities celebrating Advent, Christmas, and New Years in Iceland, and the interesting, and often hilarious traditions are fun and surprising. The mischievous Yule Lads, the delicious (and sometimes disgusting) foods, the fireworks and bonfires that usher in the New Year...I especially loved the chapter on The Hallowed Hour - it was the next best thing to being there to join in the festivities. Her reading is clear and compelling, and her voice perfectly brings to life the stories that she tells. If you are an Icelandophile like me, I heartily recommend this book for your library, as well as her other Little Books on Iceland...you’ll be doing yourself a treat.