Bolludagur — or Bun Day — kicks of a three-day stretch of extravagance and deliciousness before the beginning of Lent. Held on Shrove Monday (February 28 this year), the holiday starts early, with children waking their parents by smacking them with decorated paddles and yelling “bolla, bolla, bolla!,” after which the eponymous pastry is devoured. This simple cream-filled choux pastry is often drizzled with chocolate or customized with any variety of toppings and fillings.
Delicious recipes can be found here, here, or here, (or just google “Icelandic bolla”).
Following the indulgence of Bolludagur, folks fill their bellies during Sprengidagur (or Bursting Day, March 1), Iceland’s answer to Fat Tuesday. The traditional food is saltkjöt og baunir, or salted-meat and split-pea soup (recipe here, or here.)
The trio of festive food holidays draws to a close with Öskudagur (Ashes Day, or Ash Wednesday), when chidden dress in costume and visit shops, asking for candy. Unlike American Halloween, Icelandic children earn their sweet treats with a song.
Have a sweet treat, remembering that the harshness of winter will soon be at an end.
Konudagur, or Wive’s Day, marks the beginning of the old Icelandic holiday of Góa, the fifth month of winter. For poets in a nation filled with poets, Góa is the personification of winter and the wife of King Þorri (for which the preceding month is possibly named, also a harsh and powerful personification of winter).
Traditionally on this day, the man of the farm would step into the snow, lightly-dressed, to welcome Góa into the barn, hoping she will be generous and the winter weather relent. When men started to travel away from home for work-related reasons, the women of the house took on this responsibility, welcoming Góa with this poem:
“Velkomin sértu, góa mín,
og gakktu í bæinn;
vertu ekki úti í vindinum
(“Welcome, my dear Góa,
and come inside;
don’t stay out in the wind,
oh summer day.”)
In its modern iteration, husbands present their spouses with presents or flowers and arrange for delicious cakes (if he himself is all thumbs in the kitchen) on konudagur.
The Seattle-Reykjavik Sister City Association, in conjunction with Seattle’s nineteen other sister cities, has published a new cookbook featuring recipes from each of the paired cities. With over 100 globe-spanning recipes, it is easier than ever to go on a culinary adventure. In fact, SRSCA secretary and president Justin and Adam spent most of the 2020 quarantine writing and testing recipes for the book. (It was a delicious experience).
The book is now available — just in time for the holidays! Pick up a copy at your local independant bookseller (a list can be found HERE).
Interested in learning Icelandic? Skúli Gestsson, Icelandic native, is joining the staff at the Scandinavian Language Institute, teaching Beginning Icelandic. The quarter begins January 7 and runs nine weeks. Icelandic classes are on Tuesday, 8pm–9:30pm. Pricing and registration HERE!
Seventy five years ago, on June 17 1944, Iceland declared independence and freed itself from Danish rule. The Icelandic republic was restored after almost seven hundred years of foreign control.
Icelandic Independence Day (Þjóðhátíðardagurinn) is celebrated annually with parades and frivolity. More information can be found HERE.
Til hamingju með 100 ára fullveldisafmælið! // Happy 100th Sovereignty Day, Iceland!
One hundred years ago today, the Icelandic swallowtail flag rose above the Government House in Reykjavik for the first time. In 1918, the Act of Union between Iceland and Denmark recognized Iceland as an independent sovereignty for the first time in over six hundred years. Sharing a king, the Icelandic and Danish kingdoms maintained this relationship until 1944, when Iceland declared complete independence and formed the modern Icelandic republic.
Til hamingju, Ísland!
Andy Meyer, teacher, wanderer, and poet, will join SRSCA for our Holiday Book Flood reading on December 6. Andy is a Humanities teacher at The Northwest School in Seattle. In 2015 and 2016, he visited over 60 upper secondary schools throughout Norway, offering workshops on topics in American culture and history, as a Fulbright Roving Scholar. With feet planted in both Norwegian and American cultures, we are excited to hear his perspective.
Leija Farr is Seattle's first youth poet laureate, from 2015 to 2016. She is 20 year old who's passion for poetry took hold after winning a contest at age 12, with a poem about teens and drug use. Her writing fearlessly tackles topics like social justice, women’s empowerment, and self-love. Her poetry collection Outweigh the Gravity was published in 2016 by Penmanship Books.
Iceland — one of Europe’s most literate and literary countries — is home to many delightful holiday traditions, including Jólabókaflóð or, Holiday Book Flood. Prior to the Jule shopping season, Icelandic publishers release a flood of new books. Among newly knitted sweaters and licorice candies, Icelanders invariably find a new book (or several) under the holiday tree. The Christmas break is spent hanging out with family, devouring the latest crime novel, trollish misadventure, or expertly crafted poetry.
This year, the Seattle-Reykjavik Sister City Association, in partnership with the Nordic Museum, brings this holiday tradition to Seattle.
The Holiday Book Flood starts December 1 and continues through December 9, with a pop-up shop at the Nordic Museum gift store, highlighting the best in Icelandic and Nordic literature, curated by the SRSCA Book Club and Fantagraphics Books.
On December 6, the Flood kicks into high gear with a reading featuring local literary talent, at the Nordic Museum, between 6pm–8pm. (2655 NW Market St, Seattle, WA 98107)
Visit our Facebook event page for updates.
Sierra Nelson, Seattle-based poet, performance artist, and teacher. In addition to publishing award-winning I Take Back the Sponge Cake, and 13 Love Poems & One Ugly One, Nelson has created art and performance installations throughout the world including Venice and Reykjavik. Her latest book, The Lachrymose Report, was published this fall with Poetry NW Books.
D.A. Navoti, an essayist and fiction writer whose work has has appeared in Spartan, The Explicator, NativeOUT and focuses on the intersections of contemporary indigenous identities. He is a 2017 Jack Straw Cultural Center writing fellow and emerging writer fellow from Hugo House.
Margaret Wilson, an anthropologist and writer, whose book, Seawomen of Iceland: Survival on the Edge, was a finalist for the 2017 Washington State Book Award for Nonfiction. Her book is an eye-popping narrative journey into the lives of literally thousands of Icelandic fishing women who have braved Iceland's arctic seas from the Viking times to the present.
(more to be announced shortly!)
Following the performances, guests are invited to explore the Nordic Museum’s permanent exhibits for free; the stunning “Vikings Begin,” featuring a bevy of artifacts from Uppsala University in Sweden, is only $5.
This event is also a book drive to benefit the families at Mary’s Place, an emergency shelter for women and children. Guests are encouraged to drop off a new or gently used children’s book at the Nordic Museum gift store any time between December 1 and December 16.
This event is produced in collaboration with the Seattle City of Literature.
Thanks to everyone who participated in the 2018 Taste of Iceland. The weekend-long festival of all things Icelandic included:
Delightful storytelling by humorist, poet, and activist Andri Snær Magnuson (Love Star, Bónus Poetry, The Story of the Blue Planet, and the forthcoming The Casket of Time.
Amazing performances by up-and-coming Icelandic bands Vök and Gyða.
Delicious food from Hákon Már Örvarsson, owner and head chef at Essensia in Reykjavík.
Suitably moody and dark short films, including Arnbjörn, directed by Eyþór Jóvinsson, C-Vítamín directed by Guðný Rós Þórhallsdóttir, In the Dark Room, (Anna María Helgadóttir), Kali’s Solitude (Gúðjón Ragnarsson), That’s What Friends Are For (Brynhildur Þórarinsdóttir) and VAKA (Teitur Magnusson).
And: a discussion about the Icelandic energy industry; a discussion about the thriving design and architecture scene; a mixology class with Teitur Ridderman Schiöth; a celebration of 100 years of Icelandic Independence. Too much for one weekend!
We are looking forward to the next iteration, due to hit Seattle shores the second week of October, 2019.