High Days and Holidays in Iceland (1995)

Bapopik at AOL.COM Bapopik at AOL.COM
Thu Jul 12 22:41:14 UTC 2001

   Iceland´s nickname is "land of ice and fire."
   Despite the large U.S. presence in Iceland and Greenland from WWII (for which they thank us very much) onward, you still see mostly British spellings.  Check "Iceland" or "Greenland" and then "centre"/"center" of "colour"/"color".

by Arni Bjornsson (curator of National Museum of Iceland)
Mal og menning
120 ðages, paperback

   This is another book that is sold everywhere.  I won't include all the folk days here.

Pg. 13:  The Icelanders have folklore about beautiful "hidden people" or elves (like the Irish).

Pg. 20:  If someone was said to be "preparing his Crouchmas shoes," for instance, this meant that he was at death's door.

Pg. 26:  A woman could create a _tilberi_ or magical messenger from the rib of a dead man, stolen from the churchyard on the morning or Whit Sunday.

Pg. 28 (Ember Days): ...as _saeluvika_ ("happy week"), a name which became attached to the celebrations first held in Skagafjordur in the north of Iceland in 1875 in the last months of winter following regional meetings.

Pg. 29:  _Fardagar_ (Flitting Days), the first four days of the seventh week of summer, were the days allotted for tenant farmers to move from one farm to another for the coming year.

Pg. 31:  ...various old saying support this view, such as "nobody profits in the year of a move," and "three moves are as bad as your house burning down."  The term _fardagaflan_, or "Flitting Days hastiness," applied to improvidence in general, seems to have developed from this disapproving view of wandering.

Pg. 52:  ..._bjargsig_, the Westman Islanders' cherished art of cliff-climbing on ropes, a skill which is used when collecting seabirds' eggs...

Pg. 70:  ..._megringar_ (scraps of dried fish, fish-skin etc.)...

Pg. 79:  This was generally cooked in a hearty _kjotsupa_ (meat soup) which was served on Christmas Eve.  _Hangikjot_ (smoked mutton) was also common Yuletide fare, while _rjupa_ (ptarmigan), today a luxury Christmas dish, originated as a poor man's substitute for lamb or other meat.

Pg. 79:  A unique Icelandic treat on the Yuletide table was _laufabraud_ (leaf (Pg. 80--ed.) bread).  Flour-based dough is rolled out as thinly as possible, cut into circular cakes, and then cut and plaited in decorative patterns before being deep-fried.

Pg. 80:  ..._kleinur_ (doughnuts)...

Pg. 92:  Traditional Icelandic food, such as _svid_ (pickled lamb's heads), _hangikjot_ (smoked lamb), _hrutspungar_ (pickled ram's testicles), _hakarl_ (cured shark), _flatbraud_ (cakes of rye bread cooked on a hot griddle), and sweetned black rye bread were served...

Pg. 99:  Bun Day (_bolludagur_) is the Monday of the seventh week before Easter (between February 2 and March 8).  The Icelandic name derives from the cream-filled buns which are consumed on this day. (...)
   In the last years of the 19th century, buns began to be sold on the Monday of Shrovetide week.  Bakers, most of whom were Danish or Norwegian, seem to have introduced buns to Iceland.  At this time, relatively few Icelandic homes boasted a proper oven, so proper buns could not be baked at home.  Thus the custom of eating buns on Bun Day originated and grew in the urban centres (Centers!--ed.), where bakers offered buns for sale.

Pg. 101:  _Saltkjot og baunir_ ("salt-meat and peas") is eaten today in almost every Icelandic home on Shrove Tuesday.  The Icelandic name for the day, _sprengidagur_ (Bursting Day), does not appear until the 18th century, and it has generally been interpreted as a reference to eating _undir spreng_ (to bursting).  A more probable derivation is from the Catholic custom of sprinkling with holy water on this day and other days of penance.  Chruch festivals of this nature are called _Sprengtag_ (plural _Sprengetage_) in German, from the verb _sprengen_ (to sprinkle).  (...)  At any rate, the term must pre-date the Reformation, when all sprinkling of holy water was abolished in Protestant rites.  There is no indication that the word _sprengja_ was ever used in this sense (to sprinkle) in Icelandic.  Subsequently, attempts to explain the name of _sprengidagur_ must have led to the folk etymology of "Bursting Day."
   In Jon Arnason's 19th-century folklore collection, the derivation of "Bursting Day" is explained as follows:

   A widow lived on her farm, and had her daughter and other people to a meal on Shrove Tuesday.  When they had finished eating in the evening, the woman said, "Thank God; I am full, and my people too."  The (Pg. 102--ed.) daughter thought her mother had eaten more than she, and called out: "May the one who is most full burst."  But the girl herself burst, at these words, because she was the fullest.

(I shouldn't be typing this after dinner--ed.)

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