Set in a wintry landscape, Christmastime in Iceland means gatherings of friends and family for the decadent Þorláksmessa feast after the Christmas fast.

Iceland cookies
Clockwise from top left: oatmeal cookies with chocolate and pecans, chocolate-cornflake cookies (marens kornflexkokur), chocolate-coconut cookies (kokosmjölskokur), leaf bread (laufabrauð), and Great-Grandmother’s Mallet Cookies cool on the dining room table of Nanna Rogvaldardottír’s Reykjavík home. Ariana Lindquist
Iceland Christmas dinner
Homecooks Kjartan Ólafsson and Kaja Gunnarsdottír prepare for the arrival of guests at their skata luncheon in honor of Þorláksmessa, St. Thorlak’s mass on December 23rd. Ariana Lindquist
Street in Iceland
A Reykjavík street lined with a mix of shops and homes slopes gently down towards the harbor. Ariana Lindquist
Cathedral in Iceland
Hallgrímskirkja, or Hallgrim’s Church, a Lutheran Cathedral located at the top of a hill in central Reykjavík, allows locals and visitors a 365-degree view of the city from its towering steeple. Ariana Lindquist
A boy lights candles in Iceland
Úlfur Árnason, Nanna’s grandson, lights candles in her living room window before the beginning of her December 23rd buffet. Ariana Lindquist
A family eats a holiday meal in Iceland
A hodgepodge of guests line one of several tables to enjoy fermented skate, baked cod with egg and butter sauce, potatoes, salad, and dark rye bread—as well as sips of Brennivin—at the home of Kjartan Ólafsson and Kaja Gunnarsdottír. Ariana Lindquist
A man smiles after the Þorláksmessa meal in Iceland
Nanna’s brother, Eiríkur Rögnvaldsson, gets into the holiday spirit at her Þorláksmessa buffet on December 23rd. Ariana Lindquist
Wintry night in Iceland
A wintry landscape outside of Reykjavík in southwest Iceland. Ariana Lindquist
Family prepares cookies for Þorláksmessa
Úlfur Árnason and Nanna Rogvaldardottír prepare great-grandmother’s mallet cookies in her galley kitchen the day before her Þorláksmessa buffet on December 23rd. Ariana Lindquist
Ships in Iceland
Ships of various sizes and purposes dock in Reykajavík’s harbor. Judy Haubert
Family and friends gather for a feast in Iceland
A mix of family and friends help themselves to Nanna’s laden buffet table. Ariana Lindquist
Two girls get dressed up for a family feast in Iceland
Sisters Ingibjörg Rûn Ôladottir, 15, and Þôra Rûn Ôladottir, 14, are beautifully attired for their aunt Kaja Gunnarsdottír’s skata luncheon. Ariana Lindquist