Iceland Traditions

Life in Iceland still has a largely patriarchal accent. The darkness and the long winter have made the house the natural center of existence. The typical Icelandic house is a farm surrounded by a grassy area (tūn) and the farm (jord) is bordered by an embankment. The houses, generally lined with wood or peat, are comfortable and very heated either by the hot water of the geysers or by large tiled stoves, and are scattered over an area where practically no connections are made. Each house is therefore fully equipped to ensure survival in the event of isolation. Parties are celebrated in intimacy, except for Reykjavík. Iceland is the country that more than any other in the world remains anchored to ancient customs. To solemnize the holidays, women wear a satin and black cloth skirt, a white blouse, silver filigree belt and bracelets. On their heads they wear a bonnet adorned with a veil pointed by a large pin; in church the bonnet is replaced with a kind of gray cap. The men wear black breeches, rubber boots, colorful sweaters or tunics covered with checked jackets, cone hats. Icelanders love fun. From May to October, when the day is perennial, life is very animated, especially in the capital and in the few other centers of the country: towns from 2 to 10,000 residents approx.

People throng in the evening i Bakarj, places between the café, the bar and the restaurant, where you can drink, eat, chat and read the newspapers. Icelanders, in addition to music and dancing, love group walks and baths, which exclude swimsuits; in fact they have always been nudists, out of hygienic conviction. Some of the country’s main holidays occur in June: the national one, which celebrates independence from Denmark and the founding of the Republic of Iceland (17 June, the day the national hero Jòn Sigurdsson was born) sees the Icelanders organize colorful parades, concerts also outdoors, dances and shows, while for Sjómannadagurinn (first week of June), the sailors are remembered with swimming and sea rescue competitions, as well as tug-of-war and arm wrestling; for the Midsummer party (June 24) you roll in the night dew which, according to legend, magically heals at least 19 different types of diseases. However, the first day of summer is celebrated well in advance on the third Thursday of April (Sumardagurinn Fyrsti), the first day of the first Harpa summer month, according to the ancient subdivision of the Icelandic months in which gifts were prepared for children; but the dances, bonfires and large banquets also return in August for Pjódhátí-Vestmannaeyjar and Verslunarmannahelgi local festivals in which Icelanders attend numerous and enthusiastic. On August 18 is Reykjavík Cultural Night, when bookshops, museums, bars and restaurants stay open late waiting for the fireworks to conclude the party.

At the Viking Festival which takes place every year in the port of Hafnarfjördur an international audience participates that is distributed among exhibitions of crafts and local traditions, as well as representations of ancient duels between warriors dressed in the typical costumes of the time. Finally, for Christmas, much felt by all Icelanders, “different Santa Claus” invade the streets of the towns with jokes and songs.

According to aparentingblog, the traditional cuisine is mainly composed of fish dishes, the island’s main wealth, a land of fishermen with a generous sea, where the fishing of cod and herring in the summer becomes the festival of seafaring. Some dishes are quite particular: hákarl is based on decayed shark meat through a process of decomposition, by burial in the sand, which can last up to six months; i súrsaðir hrútspungar instead they are mutton testicles soaked in whey and crushed to become a cake; while svið is the sheep’s head (including eyes) seared until browned, split open and eaten or boiled, or fresh or in brine; finally the slátur is a mixture of sheep offal stuffed into a sheep’s intestine before being cooked. Other typical dishes, a little more suitable for all palates, are fish balls or thin slices of haddock, dried in the open air, dehydrated and served with butter (harðifiskur). There is no shortage of whale meat (in 2003 the ban on whaling, in force for over 14 years, was revoked by the Icelandic government) and seal, but also lamb (hangikðt is a typical Christmas dish based on smoked lamb), partridge, veal and horse, often served with a particular unleavened bread. Those who love sweets must try the pönnukökur (Icelandic pancakes), the kleinur (typical donuts of the island), but above all the skry, very similar to yogurt, flavored with the addition of fruit (especially berries) and sugar. The brennivín (literally burnt wine) is instead the traditional drink Icelandic, very similar superalcolico brandy, derived by distillation from potatoes and flavored with seeds of cumin.

Iceland Traditions

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