Preparing to Nominate Leaf Bread Making to UNESCO’s List

Vala Hafstað

The Árni Magnússon Institute for Icelandic Studies is preparing to nominate traditional Icelandic leaf bread making to UNESCO’s List of Intangible Cultural Heritage, Morgunblaðið reports.

Leaf bread is traditionally made in Iceland before Christmas, where the family participates in cutting out the leaves. Not only is the bread considered an essential part of the Christmas meal for its good taste, but also for its decorative look.

The leaf bread tradition has already been registered on Árni Magnússon Institute for Icelandic Studies’ website Lifandi hefðir, meaning ‘living traditions.’

“We believe the leaf bread tradition to be one that belongs on UNESCO’s List of Intangible Cultural Heritage, which is why this is being closely looked into,” states Minister of Education, Science and Culture Lilja Alfreðsdóttir. Her ministry asked the Árni Magnússon Institute to prepare the nomination.

On the website Lifandi hefðir, Dagný Davíðsdóttir writes that decorative Christmas bread and Christmas cakes still exist in Europe, but none that resemble the much thinner Icelandic leaf bread.

“Leaf bread is a uniquely Icelandic phenomenon,” she writes. The oldest written source mentioning it dates back to the first half of the 18th century.

During the 19th century, the bread was mainly made in North Iceland, but nowadays, it is made throughout the country.

UNESCO’s List of Intangible Cultural Heritage includes all sorts of traditions, including dance, music, poetry, food, folk beliefs, and more. For the complete list, see here.

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