Friday, January 23, 2009

The old Icelandic month of Þorri

The Old Norse Calendar is often broken down into two groups often referred to as "winter months" and "summer months". The midwinter month of Þorri always begins on the Friday after January 19th. The midwinter feast Þorrablót was held to celebrate that winter is half over and we survived without starvation or serious illness.
The first day of Þorri is called Bóndadagur or "Husband's Day/Farmer's Day", and is dedicated to men (formerly only farmers). Earlier it was only the husband who was treated with better food the first day of Þorri, as a credit for bringing the family through half the winter. As time passed all other people in the household where also given more and better food on this day.
In 2009 the old month of Þorri begins on 23 January the last day of Þorri is on Saturday 21 February.
Icelanders serve food for Þorrablót that was regularly eaten in the time of the Vikings and Icelanders in and before the 19th Century. With no refrigerator, the Vikings and the farmers of Iceland used other methods to preserve the food during long cold winters. Food was smoked, soured, salted, and dried; this food has become the food served at Þorrablót as a tribute to the Old Icelandic culture. Some food or Þorramatur served at Þorrablót are: Hangikjot (smoked lamb), Svið (jellied sheep's head), Hrútspungur (cured ram testicles), Bringukollar (breast meat), Lifrarpylsa (liver sausage), Harðfiskur (dried fish, served with butter), Kartöflustappa (mashed sweetened potatoes), Rófustappa (mashed rutabagas), and Rúgbrauð (rye bread).
Traditional Þorrablót’s are an evening filled with drinking and dancing along with the Old Icelandic feast. In Utah we have forgone the traditional; Brennivín (caraway schnapps), or Bjór (beer), for soft drinks. It is still an evening full of fun as we celebrate with Icelanders around the world in remembering the past. So far we have held off those that find the Þorramatur not to their liking by serving roasted lamb and baked or fried cod or haddock. Some have suggested that we should have Þorri chicken, Þorri prime rib, grilled Þorri steak, Þorri pizza, Þorri lasagna, and other such stuff. This is not really Þorramatur, of course, and in my opinion, people who would like a Þorrablót with this stuff would be better off going out to dinner and seeing a show. They, for sure, would be missing out on the special experience of Þorrablót and the tribute to our Icelandic culture of the past.

No comments: