Sunday Post - 22.12.1940, Blaðsíða 1

Sunday Post - 22.12.1940, Blaðsíða 1
CHRISTMAS NUMBER % Gledileg Jol! Sunday Post SUNDAY POST Iceland’s premier Eng- lish news-sheet. DAILY POST. On sale from 8 a. m. every day. Price 15 aura. I — 17 Sunday, Dec. 22nd, 1940 Price 1,00 krona. Icelandic Christmas Customs by Sigur3ur Einarsson Reader in theology at the University of Iceland. CHRISTMAS in Iceland is quiite unique. This is parti- cularly so in the minds of the older generation and the country people. In the towns Christmas has got an international atmos- phere, which makes it much less interesting. Let us imagine, that we are staying out in the country in Ice- land some 40 years ago. Christ- mas is getting near. In every home people work hard at the preparation for Christmas. A- mong other things, every member of the household has to get a new piece of clothing to take on. If he does not get it, he will be seized by the Christmas cat. This is a monster which nobody has seen, but everybody is neverthe- less soi afraid of it, that they will not risk anything. Therefore all spinningwheels and looms aTe kept busy, and the lady of the house and her maids sew Until late night. Just before Christmas, you be- gin to prepare the Christmas food, a very important event. First you bake bread and flat- bread, and in many districts you make the &0' called „leave bread" peculiarly carved cakes boiled in fat, and you find them very deli- cious. On St. Pariahs Day (23rd December) the main quantity of the Christmas food is prepared. The traditional dish is smoked lamb, and you boil as much as you can afford, and if you are well enough off, you boil so much that it will last during all the Christmas festivities. After boiling, the meat is put in vessels for cooling, and on Christmas Eve the lady of the house divides' it between her household. On Christmas eve the whole house is cleaned, and that must be finished not later than 5 o’- clock, and at that time too, all work outside the bouse and the attending of the cattle had to be finished. Just after 5 o’clock everybody was gathered in the house, and you now started to change into your best clothes. This had to be finished by 6 o’- clock, when Christmas really be- gan, but where there were many children, the lady of the house and her maids as a rule were a little late. When everybody was dressed, all lamps which SigurSur Einarsson. were to be found in the bouse were lighted, and after that no- body was allowed to touch any work, except those absolutely necessary, such as serving of meals. At this hour, those who went to church, left their homes, but owing to bad weather and a great distance from the church this was impossible in some districts. Christmas Eve was the most sacred part of Christmas. When everybody had dressed and taken on some new piece of clothing so it was apparent, that the Christmas cat had nothing to do in that farm, all the people sat down on their beds, and the hus- band took the book of sermons and read the Christmas gospel and a sermon. After that ;all members of the family and household said aloud: “Thank you for the reading” and then wished each other happy Christ- mas. This finished, the lady of the house went to the pantry, and put the finishing touch to the dividing of the Christmas meal, but the maids serve the meal for every member, and each af them gets his portion on a large plate. The division was carried oiut according to fixed rules, which have been unchanged for centuries. Every grown up man was to get a smoked leg of a lamb, smoked side of mutton, some fats, three or four pieces of flatbread, a piece of bread baked in a pot, two „leavebread” cakes, and on top of this he got a large candle. On the more well-to-do farms, where there were many cows, you got a large portion of butter as well. Grown up women got a shoulder in stead of a leg, and their piece of smoked side of mutton was considerably less than that of the men. Their por- tion of bread was very much the same and so: was their candle. Children were given their por- tions in proportion to their age and sex, and there was always a marked difference as between boys and girls. Apart from this, it was a custom on the more well-to-do farms, that the hus- band got the so called guest por- tion, a particularly selected piece of smoked mutton, and this he had ready in case he got visitors during Christmas, whom he wanted to1 give some refresh- ment without calling for the assistance of his wife or maids, as they were not bound to do any work except those you could not do without. Wines' were not found except on relatively rich farms and they were never touched on Christmas eve. When the employees had finished their meal, they all went to the lady of the house and said: “May God bless me and my food in the name of Jesus, amen.” So solemn a phrase was never used except on this sole occasion, and it was also meant to be a sort of an acknowledgement, that they had been well treated in her em- ployment. It was also a kind of promise, that they would do their best, and understand her position during the inevitable scarcity of food in the late wintermonths. The rest of the evening was spent in a quiet way. Weather- beaten shepherds lighted their candles, took less snuff than usual and played with the child- ren and offered help if anybody had to do something. In the homes there was a rest instead of toil, and a peace instead of un-" certainty, a rest so profond, that it was almost blasphemy if any- body dared to mention any dis- agreement, which might spoil this sacred hour. But in all this, Christmas has been to the Icelanders, who have professed the Christian faith since the year 1000, a heathen festival. In the morning on Christmas Day, the lady of the house got up first of all, and served all the members of her household with coffee and small thick pan- cakes. It made no difference whether she was rich or poor, whether she had no maid or ten maids. After that, the cattle and sheep were attended as quickly as possible. Those who wanted k> attend church, had to leave in good time, and they were given some Light refreshments when they had finished their outdoor- work. If they had to wade through deep sinow or if the church was faraway, they also had a little from their portion of the preceding evening. Then they left for church, often two hours walk 'through deep snow, and attended the service in a cold church. After service the church- goers stayed a bit if there was fine weather, but otherwise ev- erybody hurried home. In going to church, the religious and the social aspects were so strangely interwoven, that my home; from which nobody attended church, felt tljat something had been lost, which otherwise was to be theirs as a matter af fact. From large Wines there went many to church buit from the smaller ones only one but this one, on his return, had to retell the sermon for the people at home. This was a great sport, and people of average in- telligence did it easily. When the churchgoers returned home, the rest of. the people (Please turn to page 11.)


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