Without the celebratory distractions of Halloween and Thanksgiving, Iceland apparently heads straight into the Christmas season at the start of November. From what I can tell, said season–including Christmas decorations starting to pop up around town–coincides with the unveiling of the jólabjór, or Christmas beer, which starts being sold in bars at 11:59 on November 2. Why such a precise time, you ask? A friend in the know (her boyfriend works at a bar) explained that because the most popular Christmas beer is Tuborg, a Danish brand, bars in Iceland have to wait to sell the brew until it has been sold in Denmark first. (I actually remember my Danish friend and tutor telling me about Christmas Beer day and what a big deal it was when it started being sold each year. I had no idea that this extended beyond Denmark.)
A 2012 Tuborg Jólabjór ad, as posted on the Facebook page dedicated to this phenomenon.
There’s definitely a fair amount of hype about the beer’s unveiling in Iceland, though–in the days leading up to November 2, there were lots of anticipatory posters hung in bars, usually featuring the Tuborg bottle against a snowy, recognizable Icelandic backdrop, such as the silhouette of a Tuborg bottle in the beam of the Peace Tower. Then, at the bottom of each poster, just a big 2. Nov! which made me think there was some sort of Christmasy beer protest being quietly and efficiently scheduled all over the city until someone finally explained this phenomenon to me.
Jólabjór did start as a Danish thing, but Iceland is now making its own. Because in addition to Tuborg-unveiling-day, there is also (as of last year) official Christmas Beer Day in Iceland–November 15. Per the linked article:
In the 2010 pre-holiday season, the Christmas beer sold out. A total of 370,000 liters of the seasonal beer was sold and the sale is expected to be at least as good this year.
In the past years, Christmas beer has arrived in stores on the third Thursday of November but from now on, November 15 will be Christmas Beer Day in Iceland.
Although each brewery has its own twist on the Christmas beer, it is usually darker in color than regular beer and has more body and taste.
I’m glad to be out ahead of this food-related Day of Note. I’ve already sampled several Icelandic Christmas brews in bars, but wouldn’t mind getting a hold of some of those for the holiday season. And apparently, it does actually sell out.
But no reason for beer to get all the fun this holiday season. Wholesome beverages get in on the spirit, too. I give you:
Someone has already asked me, so I will immediately clarify that Christmas milk is just regular milk. But in Christmasy packaging! (Really–it was the milk out on the counter this morning that I used to cream my coffee. It is totally normal milk.) As you will see from the photo above, there is a clever pun on the packaging now: Gleðileg Mjólk, everyone! (“Happy Christmas/Milkmas!”)
And, you will also notice the presence of the Icelandic Yule Lads on the milk package here. The Yule Lads most certainly deserve their own post–not to mention the rather beastly Yuletide Cat–so I won’t get into them for the moment. But by all means get a head start on Christmas and the lot of it with the special jólamjólk website, which includes a page from which you can send Christmas milk/Yule Lad e-cards.