I’ve been curious about Icelandic holidays, so I asked some Icelanders what they think of Icelandic holidays and about their favorite holidays.
The first holiday I asked about was Þorrablót (the “Þ” is pronounced like “th”) which is celebrated in February and coincides with the month of Þorri in the old Icelandic calendar. Þorrablót was originally a pagan holiday that was abolished after the adoption of Christianity in Iceland around 1000CE. It was brought back and became a symbol of Icelandic nationalism in the 19th century, when Iceland was still under Danish rule.
Þorrablót is celebrated by eating traditional Icelandic food, including many fermented, sour foods like rotten shark. I asked Bertha, a chef in Reykjavík, what she thought of the holiday. Since she isn’t a fan of sour foods, Bertha said that Þorrablót wasn’t her favorite and she wouldn’t recommend it for tourists.
Eva, an Icelander who works in a tourist information center in downtown Reykjavík, enjoys Þorrablót. She doesn’t like all of the sour foods, but she eats them all during the holiday!
What is the favorite holiday of Icelanders? Jólinn (Christmas).
Elisabet and Hallgefður, baristas at Kaffihús Vesturbæjar, both said Christmas was their favorite. Elisabet said she liked it because she could spend time with her family.
Another Icelander, Gunnar, likes Christmas best because it’s when “sólin fer upp aftur” (the sun comes up again). Iceland is so far north that, in the summer, the night is only a few hours long, while in the winter, the day is only a few hours long. Christmas is around the time of the winter solstice – after which the days start becoming longer and longer.
Eva at the tourist information center agrees with Gunnar. She said that Christmas is beautiful in Reykjavík because the whole town is covered with Christmas lights – lights which brighten the dark days. The lights are kept up after Christmas, too, she said, to keep the city lit and everyone’s spirits up until the days become longer. Reykjavík must be so beautiful with all of those Christmas lights! I’ll have to come back in December!