The Encyclopaedia of Icelandic Holidays Issue 18
Iceland's Father Christmas FOOD Guide
Illustration by Brian Pilkington
The Reykjavík Grapevine Xmas Special 2012
Meet Iceland’s Father Christmas: Brian Pilkington By Kirsten O’Brien
Illustrations by Brian Pilkington
The man who brought the 13 Yule Lads and their menacing mother to life After 36 years of living in Iceland, Brian Pilkington laments that he is beginning to turn into the lively bearded characters he illustrates. He points to his moustache, an unruly patch of greying saltand-pepper hair, and says jokingly that he just needs to grow out his beard. Brian is the illustrator of ‘The Yule Lads: A Celebration of Iceland’s Christmas Folklore’ (2001), as well as dozens of other illustrated books about Icelandic folklore and mythology. He moved to Iceland inadvertently in 1976 when his vacation from Liverpool, England, turned into a permanent stay. Despite not being an Icelandic native, Brian has shaped the images of the famous Yule Lads in the minds of many Icelanders. After 36 years of living in Iceland, Brian Pilkington laments that he is beginning to turn into the lively bearded characters he illustrates. He points to his moustache, an unruly patch of greying salt-and-pepper hair, and says jokingly that he just needs to grow out his beard. Brian is the illustrator of ‘The Yule Lads: A Celebration of Iceland’s Christmas Folklore’ (2001), as well as dozens of other illustrated books about Icelandic folklore and mythology.
A dream to draw After finishing his studies in 1974, Brian found a job illustrating small, black and white advertisements in a local Liverpool newspaper. It was a far cry from the colourful characters and creatures he wanted to draw, but he stuck with the job until 1976, when he took a month to visit a friend from college who was living in Iceland. “At the end of the month, I was having such a good time, I decided to go around and see if I
Not only did he want to capture the look of the Yule Lads, but also their attitudes. Unlike the jolly Santa Claus and happy elves so often depicted in Christmas stories, the Yule Lads are mischievous, and Brian wanted to capture the personalities of the characters with names like Skyr Gobbler, Sausage Swiper and Candle Stealer. “I’ve been to Christmas parties where they’ve had a guest appearance by the Door Slammer, and he comes in and says, ‘Ho, ho ho, merry Christmas’ and then slams the doors and all the kids start crying. The kids have a love/hate relationship with the Yule Lads and I figured, there has to be an edge to them; they can’t just be jolly and nice like Santa,” Brian says. “It’s difficult to get the balance right, to keep them lovable but at the same time a little bit naughty, like difficult children.”
“There is nothing nice about her, which makes illustrating her that much more fun. The publishers wouldn’t have the first one I did for the book because she was too mean looking. She had a necklace of children’s skulls!” could get a job. I went to an ad agency with some slides of my work, and they took my coat off and sat me down and said you’re starting right now,” Brian recalls. Brian stayed with the agency for four years until he was asked to illustrate a book about trolls in 1980. After illustrating several troll books, he decided to take on the Yule Lads. “The Yule Lads have a troll connection because their mother and father are both trolls, and they live up in the mountains. I had worked on at least 10 troll books over the years, and I just figured it was time to get around to doing the Yule Lads as well,” he says. “It seemed like a space to move into; nobody else was doing it and it really suits my style.”
Since then, Brian hasn’t looked back. He now works from a studio on the top floor of his home. Large windows allow for natural light, as well as views of the sea. The walls of the studio are lined with books Brian uses to research Icelandic mythology, as well as plenty of his own works. He pulls one of his books from the shelf, noting that some of them have been published in 15 languages. The particular one he pulls is in Japanese. Brian says he takes great care in making sure he depicts the Yule Lads accurately, and rejects the idea of putting them in red and white and depicting them like Santa’s elves. Ultimately he says The Yule Lads book was equal parts research and imagination. “It was a lot of research, trying to work out how the Icelanders saw them. Icelanders are good critics. If you get something wrong, they’ll tell you,” he says. “So it was my ambition to get everything right, from the buttons on the clothing to the pots and pans.”
The little rascals Prior to Brian’s books, there had only been one text written specifically about the Yule Lads. Jóhannes úr Kötlum published a long poem in 1932 that describes each character in a single verse, but otherwise there was not much information for Brian to build on. “It gives hints as to their character, but then you just let your imagination go,” Brian says.
The characters come to life Brian used a combination of watercolours and gouache to illustrate each character, meticulously painting each wispy hair, furrowed brow and snaggle tooth with paintbrushes as fine as needles. The entire project took him about six months. He particularly enjoyed bringing the Yule Lads’ menacing ogre mother Grýla to life. In fact, the first time Brian illustrated Grýla for the Yule Lads book, he made her a little too real. “There is nothing nice about her, which makes illustrating her that much more fun,” Brian says. “The publishers wouldn’t have the first one I did for the book because she was too mean looking. She had a necklace of children’s skulls!” They’re not the cuddliest characters, but Brian says Icelanders are proud of their Christmas figures. For the most part, it seems Santa Claus’s sleigh has yet to land in Iceland, and belief in the Yule Lads remain as strong as ever. “It’s truly fascinating, the Icelandic Christmas,” Brian says. “It’s really far more interesting than the version featuring a single Santa Claus.”
The oldest house in Reykjavík holds many modern treasures.
The best of Icelandic design and delicious hand made chocolate. Aðalstræti 10
Monday - Friday 9:00 - 18:00 Saturday - Sunday 10:00 - 17:00
i c e l a n d i c
d e s i g n
The Reykjavík Grapevine Xmas Special 2012
Winter Fun For Everyone Get off the couch, put on your parka and get rowdy
Clear sunny skies, crisp maritime air and crunchy snow underfoot—when winter finally takes off in Iceland, it’s truly a treat. Sure, you can sit there in your ankle socks and windbreaker bemoaning the frigid temperatures and glacial winds, but if you bundle up and psych yourself up for a good time, you will want to stay outside until your pinkie toes fall off! (Note: please do not ignore first signs of frostbite.) Here are some fun suggestions for open-air activities, as well as a few for those very occasional lousyweather days we get. Ahem.
By Rebecca Louder
Holiday Opening Hours Your Grapevine Guide Many of you reading this may be tourists stranded in Iceland over the coming holiday season, we decided to compile a little list for you detailing what’s open, and when. Seeing as how most of the country pretty much shuts down over the month of December, it can be tricky enough to find places to eat and things to do, but hopefully this guide will keep you fed, watered and entertained. We tried to make it as comprehensive as we could, but apologies if we've missed something. As far as hotels, restaurants and shops go, a good rule of thumb to go by is that they are closed over the holidays, so just call up the ones you’re interested in checking out. This should help avoid any disappointments. The Official Tourist Information Centre has the most up-to-date information so be sure to pay them a visit.
Travel City buses: 24/31: Saturday service until 14:00 25/1: No service 26: Sunday schedules
In and around Reykjavík
Reykjavík Excursions: 24/25: Select tours available, consult www.re.is. Other days are operated according to program and schedule. Iceland Excursions: 24/25/31: Select tours available, consult www.icelandexcursions.is. Other days are operated according to program and schedule. The Official Tourist Information Centre: 24: 10:00-12:00 25: Closed 26/31: 10:00-14:00 1: 11:00-14:00 The Blue Lagoon: 24: 10:00-13:00, restaurant closed 25: 10:00-15:00, restaurant closed 26: 10:00-20:00 31: 10:00-16:00, restaurant closes at 15:00 1: 10:00-20:00
Just because the water is colder doesn’t mean these marine mammals are gone! Some have migrated south for the winter but there are still plenty of baleen beasts to spot from the comfort of an Elding boat—yes, you can stay inside on the lower deck! Departures are daily at 13:00 from the Old Harbour. For more information, go to www.whalewatching.is.
If you can lay your paws on a pair of skates, or even if you just have some nice smooth-soled shoes lying around, take a stroll over to the pond, Tjörnin, and join in the frozen revelry. If there’s been a thaw though and you’re not too confident about the ice holding up, head to Skautahöllin (Múlavegur 1, 104 Reykjavík). You can also rent skates there if you don’t have your own. See www.skautaholl.is.
After all this outdoorsy activity, you might want to enjoy your evening warming back up in a nice geothermal pool. Whatever the weather, it’s always great to enjoy the hot tubs at the pools in town (Sundhöll in 101 Reykjavík, Vestubæjarlaug in 107 Reykjavík and Laugardalslaug in 105 Reykjavík). For opening hours and prices go to www.reykjavik.is.
Out and about the countryside
Pools Árbæjarlaug: 24: 8:00-12:30 25: Closed 26: 12:00-18:00 31: 8:00-12:30 1: Closed
Laugardalslaug: 24: 8:00-12:30 25: Closed 26: 12:00-18:00 31: 8:00-12:30 1: 12:00-18:00
Breiðholtslaug: 24: 8:00-12:30 25: Closed 26: Closed 31: 8:00-12:30 1: Close
Sundhöll Reykjavíkur: 24: 8:00-12:30 25: Closed 26: Closed 31: 8:00-12:30 1: 12:00-18:00
Grafarvogslaug: 24: 8:00-12:30 25: Closed 26: Closed 31: 8:00-12:30 1: Closed
Vesturbæjarlaug: 24: 8:00-12:30 25: Closed 26: Closed 31: 9:00-12:30 1: Closed
Museums/Galleries Closed on 24/25/26/31/1: ÁSI Art Museum, Árbæjarsafn, Gljúfrasteinn Museum, Hafnarborg, Gerðarsafn, Nordic House, Sigurjón Ólafsson Museum, The Maritime Museum, The National Gallery The Culture House: 24/31/1: 11:00-14:00 25: Closed 26: 11:00-17:00 The Reykjavík Art Museum: 24/25: Ásmundarsafn, Hafnarhús & Kjarvalsstaðir all closed 26: Ásmundarsafn, Hafnarhús & Kjarvalsstaðir open 13:00-17:00 31: Hafnarhús open 10:00-14:00, Ásmundarsafn & Kjarvalsstaðir closed 1: Hafnarhús open 13:00-17:00, Ásmundarsafn & Kjarvalsstaðir closed
It can be a bother battling the roads in this country with such unpredictable weather, but don’t let that stop you from enjoying a day or night out of town. There are a handful of tour operators with a whole range of fun trips for you to just sit back enjoy. If you’re around for New Year’s Eve, you may want to hop on Reykjavík Excursion’s Bonfire Tour for an unforgettably Icelandic experience. See for instance www.re.is and www.adventures.is.
For those of you who live for the slopes, run to the hills on Iceland’s south coast and swish your way down. Only 25 minutes out of town, the Bláfjöll and Skálafell skiing areas are easily accessible by car or public transport and the view alone is worth the trip. Go to www.skidasvaedi.is for opening hours, slope fees, gear rental prices and transportation information.
Let’s get real though, staying inside in the winter is bloody awesome. You might as well take it up a notch and stay inside out of town at a cosy wood cabin. Grab a few cases of beer, some blankets, some firewood and all your favourite holiday movies and squirrel away in a winterhut with your loved one(s). To find listings for fully equipped cabin rentals in all regions, check out www.farmholidays.is, www. volcanohuts.com, or www.visiticeland.com.
Kolaportið Flea Market: 23: 11:00-17:00 24/25/26/31/1: Closed
Kringlan Shopping Mall: 23: 10:00-23:00 24/31: 10:00-13:00 25/26/1: Closed
Kraum Design Store: 23: 9:00-23:00 24/31: 9:00-12:00 25/26/1: Closed
Smáralind Shopping Mall: 23: 11:00-23:00 24/31: 10:00-13:00 25/26/1: Closed
Laugavegur & downtown: 23: 10:00-23:00 24/31: 10:00-12:00 25/26/1: Closed
For a complete list of opening hours and services during the holidays, go to christmas.visitreykjavik.is.
THE HAGUE INTERNATIONAL BAROQUE ORCHESTRA THE HALLGRÍMSKIRKJA MOTET CHOIR CONDUCTOR: HÖRÐUR ÁSKELSSON
HARPA CONCERT HALL
Sat Dec 29th at 5 pm: Cantatas I-IV Sun Dec 30th at 5 pm: Cantatas I,II,V,VI
Herdís Anna Jónasdóttir soprano Daniel Cabena countertenor Benedikt Kristjánsson tenor Stephan Macleod bass
Tickets at Harpa Box Office, tel. 528 5050, www.harpa.is Box Office Opening Hours: Monday to Friday 10:00 - 18:00, Weekends 12:00 - 18:00
Hallgrimskirkja Friends of the Arts Society 31st season
HALLGRIMSKIRKJA CHRISTMAS MUSIC FESTIVAL 2012
Sunday DEC 16 at 5 pm
The Organ at Christmas time Björn Steinar Sólbergsson, organist at Hallgrimskirkja, plays works by Carter, Guilmant and Messiaen Admission ISK 2500
Wednesday DEC 19 at 12.00-12.30
Lunchtime concert with Schola cantorum The acclaimed chamber choir of Hallgrimskirkja sings icelandic and european Christmas music. Conductor: Hörður Áskelsson Admission ISK 1500
DEC 31, New Years Eve at 5 pm
Festive Sounds at New Years Eve
Festive music for trumpets, timpani and organ Ásgeir H. Steingrímsson, Eiríkur Örn Pálsson and Einar St. Jónsson trumpets, Björn Steinar Sólbergsson organ and Eggert Pálsson timpani play works by Vivaldi, Purcell, Widor and Albinoni.
Admission ISK 3000
Box Office at Hallgrims Church Tel. 510 1000, open daily 9am - 5 pm. listvinafelag.is - hallgrimskirkja.is
The Reykjavík Grapevine Xmas Special 2012
No Licking Your Knife! A guide to eating Christmas dinner etiquette
Sure, You Can Say Hamborgarhryggur. But Can You Make It? By Thomas L. Moir
A step-by-step guide to not stuffing up your first Icelandic Christmas dinner
“No licking your knife, or using the fork to retrieve the meat from your teeth. I’ve seen everything, I’m sure you can imagine,” Margrét says. Okay, so you’re probably civilised enough to know that one already—unless you were raised by Vikings, in which case forks were probably bypassed altogether. Here’s Margrét’s guide to getting
through your first Icelandic Christmas dinner without embarrassing yourself at the table and becoming the second helping of your new Icelandic girlfriend’s extended family!
Traditionally, the seating arrangement will be such that the same gender is
not seated next to one another. So it’s man, woman, man, woman etc. “To make things more interesting,” Margrét explains.
The eldest at the table is always the first to be served. Your parents
should always be served before you, then the guests, and yourselves last. Margrét can’t stress this enough. “I always hate it when you’re eating a buffet and they say ‘dinner’s on the table, come and get your food,’ and parents let young kids go first. And the kids run up and grab things,” Margrét says, shaking her head. “People do not have a grip on their kids these days.”
Keep conversation light. “Just talk about nice things,” Margrét advises.
“Don’t talk about politics, just talk about surface issues, nothing too serious.” Perhaps not the best time to announce to all that you have an infected toe. Basically, nothing that may put your grandma at risk of bringing her pudding back up.
“I teach cooking when the regular teacher is sick, it’s my favourite subject to teach,” Margrét Sigfúsdóttir says. “I just love it, to teach, to cook, and to eat of course.” She chuckles. The principal of the home economics school Hússtjórnarskólinn í Reykjavík for the last 14 years, Margrét sits headmistressly at her desk, a purple shirt poking out below her Icelandic sweater, her sheer white hair pulled back tidily. Don’t let the purple shirt and the chuckling fool you though, Margrét is no slouch in the kitchen and takes no shortcuts in the preparation process. I’m sitting in an armchair in her spacious but homely office at the school, which has been educating young Icelanders in cooking, knitting and housekeeping for more than 65 years. Today, her office has more the atmosphere of a classroom. She watches me like a hawk over her red spectacles, which balance at the end of her nose. She’s taking me through the process of preparing a traditional hamborgarhryggur for Christmas. She reels off the ingredients, preparation hints and tips unflinchingly, which have all been committed to memory over the course of her illustrious career at the school.
Play soft dinner music. “Not loud
rock’n’roll,” Margrét tells me. Noth-
ing your unemployed uncle Leifur can play air guitar to. It’s a family time and people have to be able to talk together.
Never place high decorations on the table. No one can pull your Christmas
cracker if they can’t see where it is. Festivities start promptly at 18:00. All attendants should be dressed, show-
ered and ready to get festive. Many will then sit down to dinner, others will go to church. Point being, chefs especially, get yourself sorted by then, or else.
Icelanders dress up for Christmas. It is a formal, special occasion, and you
should dress accordingly. Collared shirts and ties for men, dinner dresses for women. Fur-
thermore, everybody has to wear something
First of all, what is it? A hamborgarhryggur, or smoked rack of pork, is something of a Christmas tradition in Iceland. It has only gained its status in recent years however, gaining popularity around the 1940s and ‘50s. In the early days, Margrét tells me it was not so commonly eaten, as decent cuts of pork didn’t come cheap. Much ‘Icelandic’ cuisine is heavily rooted in Denmark, but Margrét says hamborgarhryggur has been adopted as “Icelandic.” The smoked style comes from the fact that many Icelanders didn’t own fridges at the time it arrived here, so instead they’d let it hang over an open fire. Without further adieu, I have my pen and paper ready, my chef’s hat on and my appetite about to be whet!
new for Christmas. “It can be socks or just underwear, or the whole thing if you want, just something,” Margrét says. “Otherwise, legend has it the ‘jólaköttur,’ or “Christmas Cat,” will come down from the mountains and eat any naughty kids who don’t get something new for Christmas,” she says with a menacing laugh. “So I make sure I get some socks or just something from my husband each year, just to keep the cat at bay.”
From here, keep an eye on it. When it looks nice and tasty and brown, usually after just 10 or 15 minutes, it’s most likely ready to be put on the table.
Gettin’ saucy (but not flippant)
By Thomas L. Moir
Photos by Alísa Kalyanova
Ok, how do I make it? Whoa, easy there my fair carnivorous student. First you need to buy the pork. And in order to do that, you need to know what kind of pork to buy. “You can buy the pork anywhere,” Margrét says, “there just has to be a little fat on it. Otherwise the meat will get too dry.”
And how much time do I need to give myself? Well if you start now, it’ll be ready in about one and a half or two hours. “But you have to know what you’re doing,” Margrét warns, eyebrows raised. I tell her I don’t. She shoots me a ‘yep, just as I thought’ look. If you’re like me, it is recommended to get cracking around lunchtime. Margrét mentions you can always peel and boil the potatoes and even brown them in advance, rather than sweating like a pig in the heat of the moment. “It’s all about organisation in the kitchen,” she says primly.
Makin’ bacon (but not really) So you’ve got your pork. What now? “You first have to boil it in water,” Margrét instructs. “Sometimes we put pineapple juice in it, sometimes red wine, sometimes a little bit of ketchup, it depends on what you want.” “Umm, Ketchup?” I inquire, making sure I heard correctly. “Yeah, or mustard, that’s very good. Just something thick,” she replies, investing me with hope, now that we’re working with ingredients much more within my comfort zone.
“It’s no fun having a meal that looks awful. When people are like, ‘this doesn’t look nice,’ who would eat that dinner? Not me!”” “Let it boil softly for 45 minutes,” she continues, “then let it cool off for a bit.” I scrawl madly. “Then place it in a frying pan, stir in some brown sugar, and then a tiny splash of pineapple juice.” I understand the pineapple juice mixes well with the brown sugar, lending a sweet and sour flavour. “Then you put it on top of the meat, on the fat side,” she says. I clarify that by that she means elegantly pasting it on with a brush. Wrong. You just smear it all over the thing with your hands. Then let it lay flat, preferably on some aluminum foil. Then into the oven it goes to get brown.
“You can make the sauce like a gravy from the leftover liquid you boiled it in combined with the sauce from the pan,” Margrét assures. “That’s it?” I ask. “You may need to taste it and add this or that to it,” she adds. Then come the potatoes: peel and boil them, then add some sugar to a pan. Be careful not to burn the sugar (I never knew you could), but rather melt the sugar and let it turn a glowing gold in colour. Margrét advises some Christmas cooks like to add a tiny bit of water, some people add a tiny bit of cream. “Depends on what you want,” she says once again. Tip the potatoes into the gold sugar and creamy water concoction, and leave them to brown in it. Margrét finishes these directions, then closes her eyes and adds enthusiastically of the browned potatoes, “I love it like that. It’s very good.” She tells me that most Icelandic people share her love for them. “My son in law, who’s from India, thought it was very strange at first, but now whenever he visits, he checks to make sure the potatoes are browned,” she cackles in delight. I ask whether other ways of doing potatoes are acceptable. “You would never have baked potatoes with this,” she warns. “It would never fit. Not mashed either. In the U.S. they do, but not here,” she concludes proudly.
And Voila! “Yes, it has to look nice, my god,” says Margrét, almost insulted by my question about presentation. “It’s no fun having a meal that looks awful. When people are like, ‘this doesn’t look nice’, who would eat that for dinner?” she asks herself before turning to play a new character. “Not me!”
Any tips for serving the pork? It’s helpful to cut a bit of bone from the meat, and then leave it in the pan to add flavour. This way, when it comes time to serving the meat, it’s also easier to cut. If you carve the pork in the kitchen, Margrét emphasises the importance of wearing new clean gloves. “It’s nice to open a new packet of gloves. You can’t handle it otherwise. Just try using a fork and knife to cut it,” she teases. “You need to have a good grip on it.” She tells me to always make it look nice, but to remember, if you decorate the food, it has to be with something you can eat. “Do not put something inedible on it,” she quips, flexing her headmistress muscle. “Like basil trees. Sure, use it as a Christmas decoration, but not on a meal.” Verði þér að góðu (Bon appétit)!
On The Sidelines
By Kirsten O’Brien
Now that the main attraction is in the cooker, it’s time to think about the sides.
A guide to making the perfect smoked Christmas lamb
There are a number of good Icelandic sides that fit well with hamborgarhryggur and hangikjöt. Which ones you use
The White Sauce
depends on your taste. Here are a few options:
If you’ve got your hangikjöt and all your sides in order, try your hand at making the traditional white sauce that is served over the meat. This recipe is courtesy of Hraunsnef Country Hotel in Borgarbyggð: Ingredients: 75 gr butter 1 dl white wheat 7 dl l milk 1 dl cream 2-3 tbs sugar 1/2 tsp salt A dash white pepper A dash nutmeg
Red Cabbage: An Icelandic staple. Ingredients: 1 kg red cabbage 2-3 tbs butter 1/2 cup white vinegar 1/2 cup sugar 2-3 tsp salt 1 red apple (optional)
Method: Melt the butter in a pan on low temperature. Add the wheat and whisk while mixing in the milk. When the sauce has thickened, mix in the cream, sugar, salt, white pepper and nutmeg. If the sauce is too thick, add milk to thin.
2-3 tbs redcurrant jam (optional) Method: Cut a red cabbage in small pieces, but don’t shred it. Next, melt some butter in a pot, throw the cabbage in and stir regularly. Margrét says the water should leave the cabbage quickly. She suggests cutting one red apple up and adding it
No Icelandic Christmas is complete without hangikjöt, or smoked lamb. It is traditionally served on Christmas Day with potatoes, green peas, red cabbage and a Béchamel sauce (also called “white sauce”). While the meat is readily available at the grocery store, some Icelanders still slaughter and smoke their own. Þórhildur Þorsteinsdóttir’s family has been doing it for more
than 50 years at their smokehouse in Sauðárkrókur in the north of Iceland. She says they smoke the lamb’s legs, upper body, and sometimes its spine. They salt the meat in a barrel for 10 to 12 days, and then take it out and dry it for 12 hours before hanging it in the smokehouse. Her family uses Icelandic birch and dried sheep’s dung to smoke the meat, and the smoking process takes around 14
days. After smoking, the lamb is boiled and then served cold. For those interested in buying straight from the farmer, check beintfrabyli.is/byli (note: the site is in Icelandic!). Otherwise, head to a store like Frú Lauga (Laugalæk 6, 105 Reykjavík), which sells a variety of types of hangikjöt, including some that you can eat raw.
to the pot. Similarly add vinegar and two to three tablespoons of redcurrant jam. Lower the heat, put the lid on, stirring regularly for 45 minutes or until the cabbage is limp. “It’s so good,” she leans forward and whispers to me.
And A Ptarmigan In A Pear Tree The little bird that’s a big deal in Christmas cooking
Laufabrauð: A traditional crispy bread deriving mostly from the east and the north of the country, found less in the south. It is made from rye or wholewheat, white flour, salt, and a pinch of
Every year, nearly five thousand people flock to the mountains of Iceland to hunt rock ptarmigan, a medium-sized grouse commonly known as simply ptarmigan (snow chicken or partridge in North America). While ptarmigan meat is often served on Christmas or New Years Eve, the hunting and sale of it has become a rather contentious issue over the past decade. Þórarinn Ólafsson is a recreational hunter and a member of Skotvís, the Icelandic Hunter’s Association. He has been going on
By Rebecca Louder
Green Peas: These come in a can.
sugar. “You melt butter in a pan, then
the annual ptarmigan hunt since he was a child with his father and grandfather, and hunting the bird on his own since 2005. As such, he is very involved in the debate between hunters and conservationists. The Icelandic Institute of Natural History (IINH) recommended to the Minister of Environment that a ban be placed on hunting ptarmigan in 2003 and 2004 after low populations of the bird were recorded. “There were some concerns about the ptarmigan population at the time,” Þórarinn says.
“We have been negotiating about how this hunt will continue in the future. We’re not happy because they’re always cutting down the number of days that we can go on the hunt.” This season hunters were allotted nine days to get their kill, which Þórarinn says is far too short. “This season was particularly bad due to the weather, so we lost a lot of days,” he says. Prior to the ban in 2003, the hunting season lasted from October 15 until December 22, with 10% of hunters doing big volume hunting for wholesaling ptarmigan meat to shops. This led to discussions about the sustainability of the species and eventually to the ban. Since hunters have been allowed once again to hunt the bird, IINH has progressively reduced the season from 69 days to 47 days in 2005, 26 days in 2006, 18 days in 2007, and 9 days since 2011. Furthermore, it is illegal to sell ptarmigan meat so people can only hunt for personal consumption. Þórarinn says that hunters are respectful of the regulations and do not sell their kill on the black market. Occasionally they gift it to relatives. “Of course, there are always one or two bad apples!” he chuckles. “But no. There is no selling.”
For those that have made the trek and caught their dinner, it’s well-worth the reward according to Þórarinn. “Ptarmigan meat is very special,” he says. “It’s a very fine, dark meat. It’s like you are eating the moors. The bird lives solely on the grass from the highland moors, so it has a very strong, special flavour.” To prepare the meat, the birds are first hung outside, feet down, to break down their muscle and let the nutrients flow down through the body. To cook it, the bird is traditionally skinned, quickly seared, and then boiled for one to two hours. The broth is used to make gravy. A more modern preparation style that is growing in popularity is to fry them in a pan, similar to a steak. On the plate, it shares common side dishes with other traditional Christmas foods—browned potatoes, green peas and red cabbage. “People are always experimenting with the meal, so it is also nice to try something different like mushrooms on the side,” Þórarinn says. “I recommend pairing the meal with a strong, dark red wine.” He has no preference of cooking method–“I like it all,” he says. “There’s nothing like it.”
add milk and bring it to a boil,” Margrét directs. “Once you have a nice consistency, pour it over the flour, and then knead it until it’s warm.” Then the dough is rolled out into thin layers. Icelanders typically cut their own patterns into the bread before frying it in oil, and then, once ready, serving it with butter.
Caramelized Potatoes: Yumm! Ingredients: 1 kg cooked potatoes 50 g butter OR margarine 50 g sugar Method: Begin by putting the sugar in a medium hot frying pan. When it starts to brown, add the butter and mix. Lower the temperature and add potatoes. Potatoes should be small and even in size. Cover potatoes in the mixture, which should be soft and light brown. Be careful to keep the coating from getting dark and hard. If that happens, remove the leftover sugar from the pan and add a little water. Allow the boiling water to soften the caramel shell.
The Reykjavík Grapevine Xmas Special 2012
The Encyclopaedia of Icelandic Holidays
The A-Ö of the Icelandic holiday season
By Haukur S Magnússon
With additional reporting from Paul Fontaine, Sveinn Birkir Björnsson, Páll Hilmarsson and Valgerður Þóroddsdóttir
songs, although there are a few to be found. Mostly the tunes meant to get you into the holiday spirit are translations of international Xmas ones (some of them don’t have anything whatsoever to do with Xmas), so the stuff blaring from the radio in the knick-knack shop should sound familiar. There are some popular local songs, however, the most infamous one being Sniglabandið’s Jólahjól (“Christmas bike”).
(Ath-founga-dager) December 24th, Aðfangadagur, is the day Icelanders celebrate Christmas (as opposed to December 25th in most countries). The first half of the day usually goes towards finishing off all of the last minute preparations, making food, wrapping presents, bathing and putting on nice clothes. Children are often occupied by the television set, as most stations broadcast a non-stop programme of cartoons throughout the day. Six o’ clock marks the official start of Christmas in Iceland, and this is when most households sit down to enjoy a pleasant holiday meal. After dinner, most people commence opening their presents. They then hang out and indulge until bedtime.
Aðventa (Ath-venta) Aðventan, or the Advent, is the month leading up to Christmas. Icelanders celebrate each Sunday of the Advent (starting on the fourth Sunday prior to Christmas) by lighting candles on an Advent Wreath (“Aðventukrans”), which is usually a four-candle (one for each Sunday of the Advent) evergreen wreath. The first Sunday of Advent marks the time most Icelanders start decorating for the holidays and preparing in general.
Christmas stockings See also: Jólasveinar, Santa Claus The Christmas stockings tradition is celebrated in Iceland, although it differs greatly from what you might be used to. As explained elsewhere, there are thirteen Yuletide lads in Iceland, and each one comes down from the mountains on a designated day before Christmas bearing gifts for children to be placed in their shoe or stocking left by an open window. It should be noted that well-behaved children receive something of value, whereas ill behaved children usually receive a rotten potato.
is far beyond over-the-top. But most will also attest that the display is striking and beautiful. An added bonus is that most of the places selling them are doing so for charity, or to fund rescue teams. Expect small blasts here and there as of December 27th, culminating in an all-out orgy of explosions around midnight of New Year’s Eve.
ing tradition where children are herded by their parents or schools to hang out, eat cake and candy and dance around a decorated tree while singing some classic Christmas tunes. More often than not, one or more of the Yule lads will make an appearance and disburse small gifts of candies.
(gaaml-ouwrs-daager / kvoeld) See also: Fireworks, drinking, Áramótaskaup, Áramótaannáll, Áramótabrenna [Note: Gamlársdagur refers to New Year’s Eve’s Day, and Gamlárskvöld refers to New Year’s Eve itself] The coming of the New Year is celebrated pretty heavily in Iceland. Drinks are drunk, fireworks are lit and vomit is, eventually, spewed. Although there is no rule, most folks like to gather for a nice dinner feast with family and/ or friends at the start of the evening (or late in the afternoon). They hang out, drink drinks, play board games and watch the TV recap of the preceding year. Many head out to their local New Year’s bonfire, a complete list of which is published in local newspapers on the days leading up to the 31st. After watching the Áramótaskaup comedy revue and lighting some fireworks, most will head to a rowdier, less family oriented gathering and stay there ‘til dawn. A note about the word “áramót”: like many Icelandic words, it is impressively and descriptively sensible, and it does not have a counterpart in the English language. Quite literally, “áramót” translates as “the meeting of years”. Makes sense, doesn’t it?
(yo!-la-dae-ga-tael) The jóladagatal (“Christmas calendar”) is used to count down the days from December 1st until the 24th and is a must for children of all ages—some adults like to indulge as well. The most common variety has a differently shaped piece of chocolate for each day, although some of the crappier ones just have dumb, holiday related pictures. Some families like to craft their own, wrapping small gifts for each day.
Aðventukrans (Ath-ventou-kraans) See: Aðventa.
Aðventuljós (Ath-ventou-lyows) Aðventuljós, or Advent light, is a decorative object somewhat unique to Iceland. This sevenarmed electric candlestick is found in at least one window of almost every Icelandic home throughout the holiday season. See our Xmas guide for more info.
Annar í jólum (Aann-arr ee yo!-luwm) December 26th, the second day of Christmas, is the designated party day of the holiday season (New Year’s notwithstanding). The day itself usually entails heavy lounging and attending a family Christmas party or two, but the evening has most of the action, with bars and clubs opening for business around midnight. Revellers like to go out at that time, decked in their fancy holiday attire and re-connecting with friends and acquaintances that they haven’t seen for all of three days.
Áramót (our-a-mowt) See: Gamlársdagur/Gamlárskvöld.
Áramótaskaupið (our-a-mowt-a-skoj-pith) Gathering around the TV on New Year’s Eve to watch the Áramótaskaup comedy special on RÚV is an old and honoured Icelandic tradition—in fact the streets fall completely silent during its broadcast time of 22:30-23:30. The show itself is a comedy revue featuring many of Iceland’s best-loved actors that parodies the year’s events in sketches and song. The quality differs from year to year, but Icelanders love even the especially bad ones (because then they can complain to each other about how much it sucked). It is not subtitled, so the fun is likely lost on non-Icelandic speakers. It’s worth checking out, though, you can always make fun of Icelandic TV’s low production standards.
Attire Icelanders like to dress smart and snazzy over the holidays. Formal attire is usually expected in the parties of the 24th and 25th, on other days go for neat casual outfits.
Christmas music Iceland doesn’t have a lot of original Xmas
See also: Aðventa, Aðventuljós Icelanders like to decorate their houses a lot in time for Christmas, with the start of Advent usually marking the official ‘OK time’ for decking the halls. Decorations are similar to what may be found in the rest of the Christmas-celebrating world: pine branches, light sets, Santarelated effigies and various knick-knacks and doodads. American style lighting monstrosities are uncommon, but not unheard of.
Drinking See also: Annar í jólum, Gamlársdagur/Gamlárskvöld Heavy drinking is generally not condoned on Christmas Eve or Christmas Day—although indulging in a glass of wine or two isn't frowned upon—as the days’ festivities are generally reserved for family activities. The 26th, 31st and New Year’s Day are popular for binge drinking and partying, however, as are any weekend days that fall between the two days.
Eating out See also: Christmas buffets Icelanders generally don’t like to eat out during the holiday season. If you are visiting, and you plan on dining at a restaurant during the holidays (see our special Xmas listings for details), chances are you’ll be dining with some fellow tourists. However, attending special Xmas buffets is a popular activity over the advent.
Hangikjöt (Hownge-kjoet) See also: Jólamatur Hangikjöt—literally meaning “hung meat”—is smoked Icelandic lamb which takes its name from the old tradition of smoking food in order to preserve it by hanging it from the rafters of a smoking shed. Hangikjöt is traditional Christmas meat, often served with potatoes in a sweet white sauce and pickled red cabbage. It’s pretty awesome. See story on page 7
Hamborgarhryggur (Haam-bouwrger-hreggurrrr) See also: Dining A traditional Christmas food eaten on the 24th at six o'clock. It is pork, usually with a honey glazing and pineapple, cooked in an oven for a few hours. This is a pretty heavy meal, resulting in the number of heart attacks increasing around Xmas when people who really shouldn’t eat fatty meat gorge themselves almost to death. See story on page 6
(yo!-la-daguer) See also: Jólaboð Jóladagur—Christmas Day—is the big day for family gatherings and Christmas parties. Many like to sleep in and relax before putting on formal attire and heading out to a friend’s house to indulge in some hangikjöt or hot chocolate. Everything is closed. A very relaxed day, for most.
Icelandic Christmas is all about one’s family, extended and otherwise. Generally speaking, most Icelanders will be busy spending time with their families from December 24th until the eve of the 26th, so don’t expect that hot boy (or girl) you hook up with on the 23rd to be available for any immediate follow-up sessions (you should still try, though).
Flugeldar (flug-oeld-arrrrr) See also: Gamlársdagur/ Gamlárskvöld Flugeldar (“fireworks”) are an essential part of the Icelandic New Year’s Eve experience, in fact, the sale and deployment of fireworks is only legal in Iceland between December 28—January 6. Like everything else Icelanders are fond of, they take their fireworks seriously—most of those who have witnessed the mass employment of fireworks at New Year’s will agree that the act
(yo!-la-gludge) See also: Jólahlaðborð, drinking A hot beverage consisting of red wine, vodka, and spices. Often served with raisins. The word can also just mean a party of friends around Christmas time who get together under the pretext that they will drink Jólaglögg, when all they really want to do is drink anything with alcohol in it. You know, because of the dark.
(yo!-la-boll) See also: Jólaboð The jólaball, or Christmas dance, is a longstand-
(yo!-la-oel) See also: Christmas dining The ultimate Christmas drink, Jólaöl (or: “Christmas ale”) is created by mixing an elusive ratio of Malt and Appelsín orange soda. Although you can now buy this drink premixed, it’s way more fun to mix it yourself, according to taste. Note that it contains no alcohol. Which is nice for a change.
(yo!-la-smouw-koek-er) See also: Dining Jólasmákökur (“Christmas cookies”) are an essential part of the Icelandic holiday experience. Most households bake their own cookies in the weeks leading up to Christmas, making an average of 3–5 different types. They are then consumed at Christmas gatherings or while lounging about with ones new presents. Some classic types include: Piparkökur (ginger snaps”), Mömmukökur (ginger snap-type cookies sandwiched around white frosting), súkkulaðibitakökur (chocolate chip cookies) and hálfmánar (rhubarb preserves wrapped in dough), although the varieties are endless.
(yo!-la-hlaeth-boerth) See also: Christmas dining, eating out, Hamborgarhryggur A fairly new tradition in Iceland, connected to the number of restaurants increasing in later years. A Jólahlaðborð is a Christmas buffet that people attend in groups, usually co-workers go together for a night of eating, but mostly drinking. Many a marriage has been put to a serious strain after a drunken night at a Jólahlaðborð. Something about Christmas brings out the adulterers in some people.
(yo!-la-kowrt) Many Icelanders choose to parlay greetings to their friends and loved ones over the holidays via the mailing of Christmas cards, or jólakort. They will most often feature a generic Christmassy motif and some standard well wishes, although some use the opportunities to send along pictures of the family.
(hate sooqou-laethi) Indulging in a cup of freshly made heitt súkkulaði (“hot chocolate”) is an essential part of the Icelandic holiday experience. The classic recipe is thus: melt one plate of ‘Suðusúkkulaði’ (available everywhere one might buy chocolate) in a double boiler with 1–2 cups of water. In a separate container, heat one litre of milk to the boiling point. Slowly stir melted chocolate into boiling milk. Enjoy.
(yo!-la-maw-tuer) See also: Christmas buffets, rjúpur, kæst skata, hangikjöt, jólaöl, jólasmákökur Like in most other places, nourishing oneself over the holidays is all about indulgence. When it comes to jólamatur (“Christmas food”): the richer, sweeter, fattier and saltier, the better.
Illustrations by Inga Maria Brynjarsdóttir
Jólakötturinn (yo!-la-koett-ur-enn) To avoid, as the saying goes, “going to the Christmas cat,” children are required to receive at least one piece of new clothing in time for Christmas each year. Otherwise, the cat will eat them.
(yo!-la-svain-er) The Icelandic Jólasveinar (Yule Lads) have little to do with the international Santa Claus. They are descended from trolls, and were originally bogeymen who scared children. During this century they have mellowed, and sometimes don red suits. Their number varied in old times from one region of Iceland to another. The number thirteen was first seen in a poem about Grýla (the Lads’ mother) in the 18th century, and their names were published by Jón Árnason in his folklore collection in 1862. On December 12, the Yuletide Lads begin to come to town one by one on each of the 13 days before Christmas. The first is Stekkjastaur (Sheepfold Stick), who tries to drink the milk from the farmers’ ewes. On December 13, Giljagaur (Gully Oaf) arrives. Before the days of milking machines, he would sneak into the cowshed and skim the froth off the pails of milk. Next comes Stúfur (Shorty) on December 14. His name implies that he is on the small side. He is also known as Pönnuskefill (pan-scraper), as he scraped scraps of food off the pans. On December 15, Þvörusleikir (Spoonlicker) comes down from
9 the mountains. He steals wooden spoon s that have been used for stirring. When he visits the National Museum, he goes looking for wooden spoons. On December 16, Pottasleikir (Pot-licker) comes visiting. He tries to snatch pots that have not been washed, and licks the scraps from them. Askasleikir (Bowl-licker) arrives on December 17. He hides under beds and if someone puts his wooden food-bowl on the floor, he grabs it and licks it clean.
be particularly enthusiastic churchgoers or observers of religious customs. Indeed, Christmas isn’t a particularly religious holiday in Iceland. However, many folks like to attend Church services and concerts during the holidays, particularly on the 24th and the 31st. Check with your tourist information centre for complete church listings. The ringing of the church bells of Reykjavík’s Lutheran Cathedral is broadcast on all major television and radio stations throughout the country promptly at 18:00 on Christmas Eve, at which point everyone wishes each other a Merry Christmas and sits down to eat.
Returning gifts Kæst skata
Hurðaskellir (Door-slammer) comes on December 18. He is an awfully noisy fellow, who is always slamming doors and keeping people awake. The Lad who is expected on December 19 is called Skyrgámur (Curd Glutton), because he loves skyr (milk curd) so much that he sneaks into the pantry and gobbles up all the skyr from the tub there. Bjúgnakrækir (Sausage Pilferer) comes on December 20. He loves sausages of all kinds, and steals them whenever he can. On December 21, Gluggagægir (Peeper) arrives. He is not as greedy as some of his brothers, but awfully nosy, peeping through windows and even stealing toys he likes the looks of.
(kjae-st skaaa-taaaa) See also: Þorláksmessa The consumption of kæst skata, or rotted skate, on the 23rd of December is a holiday tradition derived from the Westfjords of Iceland. The dish—which many swear by, and others find especially foul—is most often imbibed at special skate gatherings around noon on the 23rd, and is often served along with potatoes, butter, rye bread and shots of brennivín (most West Fjords experts recommend drinking milk with the skate, as the fish is “intoxicating in and of itself”). The skate is a chondrichyte, and therefore ferments when allowed to rot, as its urine is distributed through its flesh and goes through a chemical change over time. They are in fact poisonous if eaten before the fermentation process is complete. It is fermented by throwing it in a box and letting it lie for three weeks.
See also: Commerce Exchanging one’s Xmas gifts in lieu of something more desirable is a common practice in Iceland. Most stores will accept returns until the second week of January, although policies differ.
Rjúpur (ryooe-purr) See also: Jólamatur Wild fowl rjúpur, or ptarmigan, are a popular main course for many families Christmas meals. The small birds can be delicious if handled properly, and have a rich, gamey sort of taste. The Grapevine recommends trying some if you have the chance.
On December 22 Gáttaþefur (Sniffer) comes calling. He has a big nose, and loves the smell of cakes being baked for Christmas. He often tries to snatch a cake or two for himself. December 22 is sometimes called hlakkandi (looking forward), because the children had started looking forward to Christmas. On December 23, St. Þorlákur’s Day, Ketkrókur (Meat Hook) arrives. He adores all meat. In olden days he would lower a hook down the kitchen chimney and pull up a leg of lamb hanging from a rafter, or a bit of smoked lamb from a pan, as smoked lamb was traditionally cooked on St. Þorlákur’s Day.
Kertasníkir (Candle Beggar) comes on Christmas Eve, December 24. In olden times, candlelight was the brightest light available. Candles were so rare and precious that it was a treat for children to be given a candle at Christmas. And poor Candle Beggar wanted one too. During the thirteen days before Christmas, the National Museum presents actors dressed as the old-school Jólasveinar. They show up around 11 AM each day. National Museum, Suðurgata 41, 101 Reykjavík. Tel. 530 2200. Originally appeared in issue 16/2005. See story on page 2
Jólatré (yo!-la-tr-yeah!) See also: Þorláksmessa, Christmas presents Icelanders’ Christmas trees are usually installed on December 23rd, with the actual decorating taking place on the 24th (although this does differ between households). Various organisations, such as the local rescue squads, sell live trees to fund their operations, although private companies also partake. Fake plastic trees aren’t very popular, although some folks prefer them.
(loi-fa-brau-eth) See also: Aðventan The making of laufabrauð, or “leaf-bread,” is usually a family-affair taking place early in December. People gather together to cut intricate patterns into this deep-fried, thin flatbread, which is then enjoyed as a tasty snack to accompany any Christmas event or meal. It goes exceedingly well with butter.
Nýársdagur (knee-ouwrs-da-guer) See also: Drinking Icelanders like to spend most of New Year’s Day feeling hung-over and sorry for themselves. As the evening approaches, many will start pulling themselves together and dressing up for New Year’s Day banquets or parties that have grown popular lately. Others will stay in watching DVDs or something.
See also: Jólasveinar We have no need for your international big, fat, jolly, capitalist greed-mongering Coca Cola Santa Claus in Iceland, as we have thirteen of our own that are much cooler. He still makes an appearance from time to time. Oh we like him fine enough, he’s a jolly good fellow and all.
Þorláksmessa (thoer-louwks-mess-a) See also: Kæst skata In celebration of one of only two Icelandic saints, St. Þorlákur, Icelanders eat fermented skate, which preferably is swallowed with copious amounts of Icelandic Brennivín schnapps. Then, they will traditionally gather on the shopping street Laugavegur to do some last minute shopping (although some do the bulk of their shopping on that day), drink Christmas beer or hot chocolate and have a merry ol’ time. Also, this is traditionally the day that children are allowed to decorate the Christmas tree.
Þrettándinn (thu-rhett-ouwn-din-n) January 6 is Þrettándinn (“the thirteenth”), the thirteenth and final day of Christmas according to Icelandic tradition. The event is celebrated with torch processions, bonfires, fireworks, and the king and queen of the hidden people traditionally join the festivities. Back in olden times, it was a scary time to be out and about, as the hidden people can be surprisingly sinister.
Presents See also: Aðfangadagur, jólatré Of course Xmas is all about the presents, and a lot of debt is incurred during the season, even though we’ve yet to discern completely how the act of spreading goodwill through gifts is affected by the full impact of the Kreppa. There are no specific guidelines for Xmas gift giving in Iceland, but a good rule of thumb is to avoid being extravagant in your gift choices, unless maybe something extravagant is called for or expected on the other end. Generally most folks tend to stick with bestowing presents upon their immediate family and loved ones, although some like to spread the joy to their entire group of friends. In any case, there’s nothing wrong with asking. Xmas presents are stored under the Xmas tree until they’re due to be opened.
Religion and church Even though around 80% of them are enrolled in the State Church, Icelanders have never been known to
Answer to Christmas trivia question on page 2: B) Thirteen
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The Reykjavík Grapevine Xmas Special 2012
A Christmas Commerce Carol
Angels we have heard on high tell us to go out and BUY! As Tom Lehrer once famously sang, “God rest ye merry merchants may you make the yuletide pay.” Whether you celebrate with midnight mass and Gregorian hymns or Tim Allen movies and pyjamas, Christmas just ain’t Christmas without a few shiny parcels under ye ol’ holiday shrubbery. And now that we’re into December, even though the prospect sickens, there’s no excuse left for putting off gift shopping. So once again, we’ve put together a guide to help you jingle through the shops on a one-horse open credit card! Ho ho ho!
By Rebecca Louder Photos by Nanna Dís
to Kolaportið on any weekend to grab up some locally knitted winter accessories for the hands and head from some delightful characters! Other recommended retail stores: KronKron (Laugavegur 63b), Spúútnik (Laugavegur 28b), Fatamarkaður (Laugavegur 118)
Stuff your face
Bookworm food For those on your list who can’t resist a nice stack of pages beautifully bound together, how about offering some new Icelandic publications, such as Sigrún B. Birnisdóttir’s collection of short stories ‘Wandering Sagittarius,’ the natural health guide ‘Medicinal Plants of Iceland’ by Arnbjörg L. Jóhannsdóttir or the family novel ‘Story of the Hidden People’ by mother and son Sigrún Elsa Smáradóttir and Smári Rúnar Róbertsson. If they prefer their books with more visuals than words, collected artworks would do the trick with Katrín Elvarsdóttir’s ‘Equivocal’ or Elín Hansdóttir and Rebecca Solnit’s ‘Path, Journey to the Centre.’ All books listed are available at Eymundsson (various locations, www.eymundsson.is.)
shelves. Among those getting the highest praise are Ghostigital’s ‘Division of Culture & Tourism,’ The Heavy Experience’s ‘Slowscope’ and Sudden Weather Change’s ‘Sculpture.’ For something hot off the record press, pick up ‘Born to Be Free’ by Borko, the self-titled album by Dream Central Station, or the very upliftingly named ‘I Will Die And You Will Die And It Will Be Alright’ by Þórir Georg (deleted line from the Last Supper? We think so.) All albums listed are available at Eymundsson or digitally at www.gogoyoko.is. Other recommended record stores: Lucky Records (Hverfisgata 82), Smekkleysa (Laugavegur 35), 12 Tónar (Skólavörðustígur 15 & Harpa)
Finally, here in Iceland we don’t do stockings, but you never know what might turn up in a shoe in the window! For all your own shoefilling needs, grab some lovely little items from local designers at ATMO (Laugavegur 89) and Hrím (Laugavegur 25), get inexpensive trifles from Tiger (various locations), and sweet treats in the form of good old fashioned candy from Nammibarinn (various locations). And if anyone made your naughty list this year, a nice chunk of volcanic coal will do just fine.
If it’s your stereo system that needs a present, then it’s in some real luck, because a whole bunch of brand new albums have just hit the
Other recommended specialty food shops: Búrið (Nóatún), Frú Lauga (Laugalæk 6), Melabúðin (Hagamel 39)
For the shoes!
Other recommended bookshops: Fornbókabúðin (Klapparstígur 25), Útúrdúr (Hverfisgata 42), Mál og Menning (Laugavegur 18)
Jingle bell rock
Of course, most of us have at least one family foodie that just wants to eat, drink and be merry. For those delightful gluttons, pile on the cheer with specialty cheeses and sausages from Delicatessen Óstabúðin (Skólavörðustígur 8), rich spices, salts and oils available at Heilsuhúsið (Laugavegur 20b) or a decadent chocolate Christmas tree adorned with candies and nuts made exclusively by Sandholt (Laugavegur 36). Help them wash that all down with Christmas beers (jólabjór) by Borg Brúgghús, Gæðingur and Einstök, and refined local liqueurs by Reykjavík Distillery available at Vínbúð (various locations, www.vinbud.is).
Or perhaps your loved ones’ closets are getting a little ratty and you’re starting to fear their last good pair of pants is going to blow apart! For some of the finest outdoor apparel in town, head up to Geysir (Skólavörðustígur 16) and grab some gear from Farmer’s Market, Vík Þrjónsdóttir, and Fjall Raven. For holiday finery, take a stroll along Laugavegur and try on some well-crafted clothes from Einvera (35), Herrafataverslun Kórmaks og Skjaldar (59), and Kiosk (65). You can also head over
S a f e ty F i r s t Ten tips for not losing an eye on New Year’s Eve By Arit John Every New Year’s Eve the sky over Iceland comes alive with sparklers, cakes, flares, Roman candles and a few other pyrotechnics, thanks in large part to ICE-SAR. For years the same friendly folks in charge of rescuing lost adventurers have also been the largest importers of fireworks into Iceland, and profits from these sales make up the bulk of their fundraising. But what should be a perfect cycle of merriment funding safety is disrupted by the number of accidents caused each year by users ignoring safety instructions. The widespread use of protective glasses has helped, but they don’t protect from drunken bravado, pranksters or a tendency amongst young boys to dismantle fireworks and create small bombs. ICE-SAR publishes fireworks safety guidelines on their website, with PDF pamphlets available in English, Polish and Icelandic. Since the majority of people won’t take the time to check these out, we’ve compiled these ten tips, from “good to know, if you didn’t already” to “please don’t ever, ever forget this.” Grapevine cares—we’re just doing our part to make sure you don’t spend New Year’s Day in the emergency room. Ten things we hope you already knew about fireworks safety Wear safety goggles to protect eyes and woolen or leather gloves to protect hands.
1 2 3
Do not stand too close when fireworks explode: the noise level can damage your hearing.
Tend to domestic animals when shooting fireworks. Keep your pets indoors, where they are most protected from loud explosions. Dogs, cats and horses are particularly sensitive to fireworks.
4 5 6 7 8 9 10
Fireworks, large and small, are not toys and should never be used for practical jokes. Many serious injuries have occurred due to this. Fireworks are not to be sold to children under the age of 16 years. Adults should always assist with their merchandise.
Children should be always supervised by adults when handling fireworks. Everyone should wear eye protection, even those who are just watching. Never carry fireworks in your pocket.
Never touch or handle fireworks after having ignited them, as they can explode without warning. Pour water over them instead. The most serious injuries involving fireworks occur due to tampering. It is extremely dangerous to dismantle fireworks and construct homemade explosives. Alcohol and fireworks don’t mix!
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to the city center in December
s S tor e n to e p o e r a
10:00 f r om p.m. 3th 1 . Dec
Hlemmur — Hangout
Christmas creatures — Find ‘em all
Don’t miss the music flowing from this legendary spot all Saturday at 3 o´clock. Agent Fresco Retro Stefsson Jonas Sig & Omar Guðjons
Walk around town and try to spot all the creatures. There’s a prize.
The fun begins at 5 o’clock Three stages, filled with joy and action, daily from December 14th. Ingolfstorg Skolatorg Laugatorg
A-ho! A-ho! A-ho! Salty holiday fun by the Old harbour all weekend, December 8th and 9th.
Yule town — Grand opening December 14th There’s a whole town, downtown. Come visit & enjoy!
101 Gift card The perfect christmas present. Available at all downtown bookstores.
City Center — enjoy it with us.
christmas.visitreykjavik.is for more holiday information