The month of Christmas is finally upon us, and where I am, we‘ve been lucky enough that the town is blanketed by freshly fallen snow. The Christmas lights have been put up in the houses and stores, and I feel like the whole world is waiting anxiously for the clock to strike six on the 24th and ring in Christmas.

I‘ve always enjoyed this month. It‘s not because of the presents but also because of the holiday with the family. It‘s so rare to have everybody together at the same time, and for me, that‘s the most important part. The nice food I used to eat at my grandma‘s didn‘t spoil it either. Later, I would lie on the floor next to my mom after we ate so much that we couldn‘t manage to sit, let alone stand. This had somehow become a part of our holiday celebrations, something we‘d joke about in the upcoming weeks.

This year I‘ll be having the Christmas celebration in my own apartment with my significant other and two dogs. We‘ll be cooking leg of lamb, my partner‘s favorite, and will accompany it with glazed potatoes, green peas, leafbrad (a tradition coming from my grandmother), and a special Scandinavian red cabbage. It may sound odd to somebody who hasn‘t been raised with this kind of cuisine, but to us Icelanders, it‘s just perfect.

After dinner, we open the presents—that is, if we are able to move. We don‘t wait until the 25th as they would do in the United States but open them on the evening of the 24th. We also like to take turns; I will open one, and my partner will wait patiently while I do so, and we‘ll then examine the contents together, and then he‘ll open one. I like this tradition, as it‘s just as much fun to see his face when he opens one of mine, especially if he‘s happy with what I got him.

On Christmas Day I like to relax. Sleep in and spend most of the day in my pyjamas. I generally serve smoked salmon at lunchtime accompanied by toast and sweet mustard sauce, and then we‘ll be eating left-overs in the evening, as we never manage to finish the food on the 24th. My partner and I like to read, so that‘s generally what we do on that day—just sit on the sofa, under a blanket, one dog by each of ours sides, and read something we got for Christmas or something we haven‘t had the chance to read yet. One Christmas I gave him a schoolbook on marketing, which he loved so much that he didn‘t stop reading it until he was finished, and that was well before the New Year.

In Iceland it‘s common to serve rice pudding on the 24th, and there‘s a game we play where we put a raw almond inside it, and whoever gets it will get a special present. As the almond is white, it‘s hard to find it, and especially when there are raisins in the pudding, something else that is very common during the holidays. I used to search and search for it as a child, but I never got it, despite my eager efforts.

For me it‘s very important that the family is relaxed during the holidays and that there isn‘t too much stress. If the dinner is late, it‘s not a problem. If we don‘t manage to open all the presents on the 24th, we‘ll just finish on the 25th. I also tend to be done buying the presents way before December in order to be able to take my time and enjoy the holidays, not strugglnig at the least minute, throwing money at something I‘m not even sure my friends or family will like.

My message to you, therefore, is to enjoy the time together and don‘t overdo it. It‘s the time to be together and not stress over something insignificant. After all, it‘s the season of love.