You may think January is the first month of the year, but if you visit Reykjavik now, you will see we also recognize that this is the fourth month of winter. If you follow the old Norse calendar, the end of January is usually the beginning of Þorri. This is when we Icelanders rejoice that winter is halfway done and show off our heritage in song and food.
Your Friend in Reykjavik would love to show you how this is the perfect time of year to enjoy traditional Iceland. And try some of our more unique local delicacies!
What is Þorri?
The Þ in Þorri is pronounced “th”, as in “Thor”, so there are some that say that this is the month we celebrate Þór (yes, Thor!). But there is more to this mid-winter festival than the god of thunder. Others will say that this is a tribute to a more ancient winter deity or even a powerful king of old.
Þorri is mentioned in the Orkneyingar saga (History of the Earls of Orkney) as a legendary Nordic king and was the father of two sons, Nór and Gór and a daughter named Gói. In “How Norway was Settled” in Flateyjarbók, it is stated that Þorri was an ancient king of Finland, Kænland and Gotland.
If þorri is derived from Thor, then þorrablót could have been a sacrificial feast for the god
Whatever the origins, we embrace all things Iceland, from quirky customs to unimaginable (perhaps for you) meals.
This midwinter season usually begins on a Friday between the 19th and 25th of January. It ends between 18 and 25 February. The first day is known as Bóndadagur, or Man’s Day. The first day of góa (the next month) is the woman’s day.
What happens on Man’s Day? Woman’s Day?
Good question! These days are also known as Husband’s and Wife’s Days. They traditionally celebrated the heads of households, man and woman. While Woman’s Day is a little more understandable as we give flowers or presents to the important ladies in our lives, Man’s Day is a little odder. We still offer little gifts, but there is a custom calling for the man of the house, on the morning of Man’s Day, to put on only one leg of his pants and run outside and call his neighbours. (If you join us for a folklore walk on Bóndadagur, we make no promises that you’ll see this, but it will be an enjoyable walk nonetheless!)
And a Þorrablót Feast?
The highlight of Þorri is Þorrablót, which is a feast of traditional Icelandic foods. Some of these delicious morsels you can get all year round, but you can find them in a lot more places during this time of year. We say delicious, but you may need to have an adventurous palate to try some of our delicacies.
You will get to try such uniquely Icelandic dishes as:
- blóðmör, ram’s stomach stuffed with congealed sheep‘s blood
- svið, boiled sheep‘s head
- sviðasulta, headcheese made from svið
- hákarl, fermented shark
- hrútspungar, pickled rams’ testicles
- hvalsrengi, pickled sour whale blubber
- lifrarpylsa, sausage made from sheep liver-suet
- hangikjöt, sheep’s shoulder or leg smoked over a dung-fueled fire
Other local delicacies that may be more palatable for visitors include dried fish, harðfiskur, dark rye bread, or rúgbrauð. There is also plenty of beer and Brennivin (our schnapps also called Black Death). And menus will include more recognizable foods for those who want to stick to a less traditional menu!
We made a special post about þorrablót and the food we eat, which you can check out here.
Your Friend in Reykjavik is ready to celebrate Þorri with you!
Whether you make it for Þorri or not, Your Friend in Reykjavik is ready to take you on a culinary journey of Iceland with our Reykjavik food tour. We will make sure you know what Icelandic food tastes like while sharing Reykjavik’s best, from fermented shark to our more “normal” and yet distinctively Icelandic hot dogs!
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