(On Thorrablot: An Icelandic Winter Food Festival)
A festival is an event, usually and ordinarily staged by a local community, which centers on and celebrates some unique aspect of that community and the festival. Among many religions, a feast is a set of celebrations in honor of God or gods. A feast and a festival are historically interchangeable.
Like in any other countries, holidays and festivals are among the most important aspects of Icelandic culture. They mirror not only Iceland’s character but also that of its people in general. Many Icelanders await and prepare for these lavish celebrations with reverence and anticipation.
An Age-Old Custom
In Iceland, as in any other country, a combination of nature, folklore, religious beliefs, socioeconomic factors, and history influences every celebration. However, it is the tenacious adherence of many Icelanders to their ancient customs—which date back to Iceland’s pre-Christian, heathen history—that best characterizes their festivals such as Þorrablot (Thorrablot).
A Feast of Traditional Viking Food
One of the most awaited Icelandic event is Þorrablot, ‘The Blessing of Þorri,’ which commences on the first day of Þorri, the fourth month of Icelandic Winter.
In standard calendar, it always begins on a Friday between the 19th and the 25th of January and ends on a Saturday between the 18th and the 24th of February.
The highlight of this month-long annual festivity is the consumption of traditional Viking food. These delicacies include svið (boiled lamb’s head), hákarl (putrefied Greenlandic shark meat), skyr (yogurt made with ‘rennet’ [a dried extract made from the stomach lining of hoofed mammals such as cattle, sheep, and goats]), flatkokur (flat, thin rye breads eaten with butter), hardfiskur (dried fish, eaten with butter), lifrarpylsa (pudding made out of lamb’s liver), and brennivín (an alcoholic beverage distilled from potatoes and flavored with the seeds of caraway herb).
The diet and eating habits of the Icelandic people, like those of many other nationalities, have largely changed in the passing of time, so it is unsurprising to know that many Icelanders now eat food prepared in the old fashion only during festivals.
In a Nutshell
Viking is any of a seafaring Scandinavian people who raided the coasts of northern and western Europe from the eighth through the tenth century.
Tracing the Origin
Many Icelandic historians say that the earliest extant reference to the word Þorrablot can be found in the late-fourteenth-century Old Icelandic collection of manuscript Flateyjarbók, (the Flatey book). According to the book, a certain King Þorri held a festive offering every late Winter to ask the deities to spare his kingdom from the harshness of the freezing season. Thus, many people believe that Icelandic Winter’s fourth month, Þorri (Thorri)—when the season is at its mildest—was named after the said king, who started the festival in the first place. Through the passing of time, Icelanders eventually came to regard the king as an Icelandic Winter god. To other people, however, Þorrablot means ‘Feast of Thor’—an ancient feast originally celebrated back during Iceland’s pagan times in honor of the Norse god Thor.
Celebrating in the Modern Day
Whatever its real origin, Þorrablot to this day remains a standard part of the Icelandic social calendar, and many neighboring countries like Denmark, Greenland, Norway, and Sweden it has even been adopted it.
As festivities take place in Winter, most of the food served are preserved in some way—dried, pickled in whey, putrefied, salted, or smoked. And amidst this food galore are children playing traditional games, dancing, singing Old Icelandic songs, and heavy drinking (especially that brennivín and other alcoholic beverages are, in Winter, ideal for warming the body and stirring the spirits).
Sa Madaling Salita
Hindi lamang sa kulturang Filipino makikita ang pagdiriwang ng mga fiesta; dagdag pa riyan, ang mga tradisyunál na larong pambata, awitan at sayawan, at iba-iba pang aspeto ng kultura. Bagama’t magkakaiba ang bawat bansa at paniniwala ng mga tao nito, kung lalawakan mo lang ang iyong pang-unawa, mapagtatanto mo na marami pa ring aspeto ng kultura ng mga bansang ito ang magkakapareho at magkakahawig.
Or, in Simple Words
Not only in the Philippines are feasts and festivals celebrated but also in any other culture like the Icelandic festival known as Thorrablot.