It’s almost Christmas and we Icelanders really love Christmas. One of our greatest traditions is our immense catalogue of Icelandic Christmas songs. Now, to be entirely honest, most Icelandic Xmas songs are not originally Icelandic or even Christmas songs. There is a running joke that almost every Icelandic Christmas song was originally an Italian pop song.
It’s one of those “it’s funny because it’s true” kind-of-things. We must remember though that a good cover can be a great song in its own right. For example, what do Whitney Houston’s “I Will Always Love You,” Frank Sinatra’s “New York, New York,” KISS’ “God Gave Rock and Roll to You,” Soft Cell’s “Tainted Love,” Joan Jett’s “I Love Rock and Roll,” Elvis Presley’s “Hound Dog,” The Byrds’ “Turn! Turn! Turn!,” and Cindy Lauper’s “Girls Just Want to Have Fun” have in common? Yes, all covers!
To help you get into the Christmas spirit, I collected some of my favourite Icelandic Christmas songs.
Hátíð í Bæ / Egill Ólafsson
A song about Christmas nostalgia to the tune of “Winter Wonderland.” Very jolly and beautiful about siblings celebrating Christmas with their mother.
Eitt Lítið Jólalag / Birgitta Haukdal
An Icelandic original about a simple Christmas–I think the “narrator” is telling her significant other that she is pregnant, but she could be referring to Baby Jesus.
Aðfangadagskvöld / Þú og Ég
Another Icelandic original. Aðfangadagskvöld is what we call the night of the 24th of December. On that night, we gather with our families, eat a feast and exchange presents.
Snjókorn Falla / Laddi
Imagine the most celebrated and loved comedian in your country. Now you know who Laddi is in Iceland. A faithful cover of the Shakin Stevens’ song “Snow is Falling,” but Laddi’s charming voice and the Icelandic lyrics make it into one of the most popular Icelandic Christmas songs.
Gleðileg jól (allir saman) / Eyjólfur Kristjánsson
A very pop-music version of Slade’s “Merry Christmas” (we tend to make our Christmas songs into europop). The message is the same, let’s all celebrate together and share in friendship.
Nei, nei ekki um jólin / HLH flokkurinn & Sigga Beinteins
Life can be hard, and we all have daily struggles, but you know what? Sometimes we just have to say “no, no, not during Christmas.” The song, with lyrics by Björgvin Halldórsson (another Icelandic icon), sung by HLH flokkurinn (that included Björgvin, Laddi and Laddi’s brother, Halli) and Sigga Beinteins (can I hear you say “Icelandic icon”?) is about we treasure this holiday, and make it special.
Þú komst með jólin til mín / Björgvin Halldórsson & Ruth Reginalds
The quintessential epic synth Icelandic Christmas love ballad (that was originally an Italian pop song (Chi Voglio Sei Tu)). The title translates as “you brought Christmas to me.”
Jólahjól / Stefán Hilmars & Sniglabandið
A consistent top 5 Icelandic Christmas song is about a boy that is wondering if the bicycle-shaped present under the Christmas tree could possibly be a Christmas bicycle. (Spoiler alert, it is.)
Er líða fer að jólum / Ragnar Bjarnason
Raggi Bjarnason (our Tom Jones) sings this beautiful Christmas song about how everything becomes a little bit brighter when the holiday season begins.
Ég hlakka svo til / Svala Björgvins
THE Christmas song for many (including me). A synth-based song (yes, it is Italian) about a little girl who just can’t wait for Christmas. Svala Björgvins (daughter of Björgvin Halldórsson) is now all grown up and the singer of the band “Steed Lord,” but for many, she will always be the little girl, counting the days until Christmas.
Jólin alls staðar / Ellý Vilhjálms & Vilhjálmur Vilhjálmsson
The oldest song here is my personal favourite Christmas song. Released in 1968, the song is a simple song that reminds us, at least me, to take a step back and enjoy myself, because the season is not only about Christmas but also about the coming of spring.
Inní strompnum / Edda Heiðrún Backman
A song about a little girl wondering what’s stuck in the chimney. Something that has been there for weeks, well, since before Christmas. It doesn’t smell too good. We can only imagine what it is…
Just so I don’t leave anyone out, Edda Heiðrún Backman is an Icelandic treasure, she was an actress before she was diagnosed with MND, but she has never retired, as she became a painter. A true inspiration to us all, and a reminder to cherish life–not only during the holiday season.
Sjáumst aftur / Páll Óskar
Let’s finish this off with, well, arguably the most popular singer in Iceland. Páll Óskar, who released this song in 1995, is, like his sister Diddú, celebrated for his sunny disposition and, although his pop songs are more famous, his attitude towards life echoes the best in this song.
Yes, we might be saying goodbye, but let us not forget all the good things we have shared in the past, and you know what? We will (probably), see each other again.
Merry Christmas everybody,
and have a wonderful new year!
and have a wonderful new year!