Putrefied skata or “skate” is a part of many Icelanders Christmas traditions. The thing about skata is that you either hate it or love it, there is no in between. It’s not only the taste that is acquired – but also the smell! The taste and smell can be described as astringent and the scent of skata permeates your clothing – well and just your whole body!  This smell fills the air on the 23rd of December when most people go to a skate-feast, so if you are doing some last minute Christmas shopping and stand in line behind a smelly person, don’t judge – it’s the smell of Christmas.

skata, Skata – a disgusting Christmas tradition?

Photo by 3 Frakkar Restaurant

Most people go to a skate-feast at a family member’s house but more and more restaurants have started to offer the debatable delicatessen as well. In the olden days, people ate skate the day before Christmas so they really would appreciate the Christmas dinner…

So eating a skata is partly the enjoyment of the meal but also the act of eating it is an important piece of the experience. Every year the family starts by speculating – will the skate be putrefied enough? This means, will it be that strong that you lose your breath each time you but a bite in your mouth and will the skin of your tongue burn off? The laughing when somebody coughs or gets teary-eyed makes the whole affair just perfect!

The skata is served with potatoes, beets, rye bread and a lot of butter. Some people replace the butter with “hamsatólg” or “hnoðmör” which is melted lamb suet – personally, I find it weird to eat wish that tastes like lamb….


  • Don’t try to drink red wine after eating skate – or anything with a delicate taste!
  • Don’t wear your best clothes to a skate-feast! Wear your sweatpants and then throw everything immediately in the 
    washing machine
    and yourself in the shower.

Bon appetite!


Guðrún Helgadóttir

Guðrún Helgadóttir is full of life! She enjoys travelling, is an animal lover and appreciates a good joke. Her laugh can brighten one’s day! Having studied Folklore she encourages people to read up on the history and Folklore of the places they plan to visit, since Iceland is quite rich of these stories and this makes every visit much more special and powerful. Her favorite 2 places in Iceland are Viðey island, a small island only a 10 minute boatride away from Reykjavík and the Westfjords, that not only have a magically beautiful scenery but also magical history, with a strong connection to sorcery throughout the ages.