Holidays and festivals are among the most important aspects of Icelandic culture. They mirror not only Iceland’s character but also that of its people. Icelanders await and prepare for these lavish celebrations with reverence and anticipation.
An Age-Old Custom
In Iceland, as in any other country, a combination of nature, folklore, religious beliefs, socioeconomic factors, and history influences every celebration. However, it is the tenacious adherence of Icelanders to their ancient customs—which date back to Iceland’s pre-Christian, heathen history—that best characterizes their festivals such as 'Þorrablot' (Thorrablot).
A Feast of Traditional Viking Food
One of the most awaited Icelandic event is Þorrablot, ‘The Blessing of Þorri,’ which commences on the first day of Þorri, the fourth month of Icelandic Winter. In standard calendar, it always begins on a Friday between the 19th and the 25th of January and ends on a Saturday between the 18th and the 24th of February. The highlight of this month-long annual festivity is the consumption of traditional Viking food. These delicacies include 'svið' (boiled lamb’s head), 'hákarl' (putrefied Greenlandic shark meat), 'skyr' (yogurt made with 'rennet' [a dried extract made from the stomach lining of hoofed mammals such as cattle, sheep, and goats]), 'flatkokur' (flat, thin rye breads eaten with butter), 'hardfiskur' (dried fish, eaten with butter), 'lifrarpylsa' (pudding made out of lamb’s liver), and 'brennivín' (an alcoholic beverage distilled from potatoes and flavored with the seeds of caraway herb).
The diet and eating habits of the Icelandic people, like those of many other nationalities, have largely changed in the passing of time, so it is unsurprising to know that many Icelanders now eat food prepared in the old fashion only during festivals.
In a Nutshell
'Viking' is any of a seafaring Scandinavian people who raided the coasts of northern and western Europe from the eighth through the tenth century.
Tracing the Origin
Many Icelandic historians say that the earliest extant reference to the word Þorrablot can be found in the late-fourteenth-century Old Icelandic collection of manuscript ‘Flateyjarbók,’ (the Flatey book). According to the book, a certain King Þorri held a festive offering every late Winter to ask the deities to spare his kingdom from the harshness of the freezing season. Thus, many people believe that Icelandic Winter’s fourth month, 'Þorri' (Thorri)—when the season is at its mildest—was named after the said king, who started the festival in the first place. Through the passing of time, Icelanders eventually came to regard the king as an Icelandic Winter god. To other people, however, Þorrablot means ‘Feast of Thor’—an ancient feast originally celebrated back during Iceland’s pagan times in honor of the Norse god Thor.
Celebrating in the Modern Day
Whatever its real origin, Þorrablot to this day remains to be a standard part of the Icelandic social calendar, and it has even been adopted by many neighboring countries like Denmark, Greenland, Norway, and Sweden.
As festivities take place in Winter, most of the food served are preserved in some way—dried, pickled in whey, putrefied, salted, or smoked. And amidst this food galore are children playing traditional games, dancing, singing Old Icelandic songs, and heavy drinking (especially that 'brennivín' and other alcoholic beverages are, in Winter, ideal for warming the body and stirring the spirits).
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About the Author: aLfie “eLf” vera mella was born in 1971 in Metro Manila, Philippines. He was a very inquisitive child who had shown fondness for reading and writing at an early age. He graduated in 1992 with a Bachelor of Science degree in Nursing, but the literatus in him never left his heart.
A true artist, eLf was the vocalist of a New Wave band, named Half Life Half Death, which served as the musical vehicle for his poetry. Before he left his beloved country in 2003, he was working as an editor of and writer for scholastic books and magazines.
eLf is currently living in British Columbia, Canada, serving as a caregiver for his maternal grandfather. He may have left a well-loved work but for a noble reason, and he never ceased from doing what he loves most since childhood—writing. Virtually always home, he usually spends his solitary nights reading, researching, and writing about various subjects of his interest—chiefly, Culture, History, Literature, Mythology, Music, and Science—with New Wave music always lingering in the background like a gentle breeze on a quiet sea.
A writer at heart, eLf started inditing his thoughts around the age of six; and he intends to continue documenting his feelings and ideas until his twilight. /http://www.elf-ideas.blogspot.com" title="http://www.elf-ideas.blogspot.com" target="_blank">http://www.elf-ideas.blogspot.com