Icelandic traditions and customs

What traditions and customs are there in Iceland?

A brief explanation of the customs and traditions of Iceland, a European island country.

Food and economy

Food in daily life

The writer Halldor Laxness once observed that “life is salt fish.” During some of the events inspired by the romantic folk revival, people consume brennivín, an alcoholic drink called “black death”, along with fermented shark meat and smoked lamb, which is served on festive occasions.

Icelanders are famous for the amount of coffee they drink and the amount of sugar they consume.

Food customs on ceremonial occasions

For homecoming parties and family gatherings, there is often a sumptuous array of cakes and pastries, including fritters and thin pancakes rolled around whipped cream.


Social interaction is egalitarian. Public behavior is quiet and reserved.

Religious beliefs

The state church is the Evangelical Lutheran Church, of which 92.2 percent of the population is nominal if it has no practicing members. Other Lutherans make up 3.1 percent of the population, Catholics 0.9 percent, and Others 3.8 percent. There is a Catholic church and churches of other groups in Reykjavik.

There are many Lutheran churches, and their clergy replace social service agencies. Other religions are Seventh-day Adventists, Pentecostals, Jehovah’s Witnesses, Bahai, and followers of the Asa Faith Society, who look to the gods depicted in saga lore.

In 1993, less than 2 percent of the population was not affiliated with any religious denomination. Confirmation is an important ritual for teenagers, but many who are confirmed are not active.

Secular celebrations

Most of the holidays are associated with the Christian religious calendar. Others include the first day of summer, a Thursday from April 19 to 25, Labor Day on May 1, National Day on June 17, and Trade Day on the first Monday in August.

These vacations are observed by having a day off from work and possibly traveling to the family’s summer home for a short vacation.

Arts Support

There is an art museum in Reykjavik, and a number of artists have achieved “state artist” status with government-funded studios, which become public museums after their deaths. There is a theater community in Reykjavík. Literature has a long history.

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