The Emigration from Iceland to North America
The Weekly Newsletter - Nr 29
December 21, 2003   Keeping in touch every single week! (almost)
Jól or Yule is almost here. But before we dress up for Christmas we have to celebrate St. Thorlakur on 23 December, the day we call Ţorláksmessa, St. Thorlaks mass.
That day is named for Iceland's major native Saint, Thorlakur Thor- hallsson, former Bishop of Skálholt who died that day in 1193, and five years later, he was declared a saint by the Alţingi (parliament) after evidence was produced that he had performed miracles. So many of the prominent figures in Icelandic history are amongst your ances- tors, but Thorlakur is not. He never married. Well, he intended to do but was stopped by a portentous dream in which a man of noble mien addressed him: "I know you intend to ask a woman to be your wife, but another, far more eminent bride is intended for you, and you shall have no other". Not only did Thorlak choose chastity for himself, he also campaigned for clerical celibacy in general. Living according to his strict principles of self-denial, he earned great respect. But he was certainly no spoilsport; although he was never seen to be under the influence of alcohol, he was said to be "lucky with drink".
The main custom associated with Ţorláksmessa, at least nowadays, is the partaking of a simple meal of skate. This custom, which originated in the West Fjords, has become traditional all over Iceland. The skate must be hung for some time, until kćst or ripe, before cooking.
The Yule tree is usually decorated in the evening of Ţorláksmessa. This is also a big shopping day for last minute gifts, with stores remaining open until midnight.
Ađfangadagur or Yule Eve is the time that all children await impatiently. TV transmission stops around 5 p.m. that day and only restarts at 10 p.m. Those who don't go to church at 6 p.m. usually listens to Evensong on the radio then the family partakes of the evening's meal. After the meal the presents are opened and, according to the children, the real Yule begins. It is usually the immediate family that spends Ađfangadagur together.
Jóladagur or Yule Day 25 December, is usually reserved for the extended family. Children gather at their parents home, and a feast is enjoyed by all.
Traditional Yule food is Hangikjöt, smoked mutton. Another traditional delicacy, the Rjúpa or rock ptarmigan, started out as the poor man's dinner but is now an expensive meal. So much sought after that since this fall the bird has been protected by law for the next four years. So, unless you keep some birds in your freezer since last autumn you have to find something else, like wild goose, a turkey or maybe a reindeer. Another Yuletide specialty is Laufabrauđ or leaf bread. This is very thin sheets of dough cut into intricate patterns and fried. Interesting to make and a delicasy to eat, e.g. with the hangikjöt.
Leafbread - Icelandic patterned delicatessen - is an extremely thin bread, evolved in poverty, when wheat was a rarity except among the rich. The practical housewives flattened the dough into thin circles, like pancakes. The cake was then artistically carved by the family, gathered for making the leafbread for Christmas. The carving was to make up for the poor dough quality. Thus, the carved Leafbread reflects the unique economy, folk art and the culinary culture in Iceland.
c) Hugrún Ívarsdóttir

 Your ancestor Einar Sigurđsson
Whether Icelanders are really church-going people or not is hardly for me to say. I must admit that I'm not. Anyway, on high days churches in Iceland are full of people, and that certainly counts for Christmas. On Christmas Eve churches are so full that many have to leave off. I suppose the ceremony is pretty much similar all over.
Nóttin var sú ágćt ein
Much reading from the Holy book and much hymn-singing. And one thing you can take for sure: The Christmas carol "Nóttin var sú ágćt ein" (That was a wonderful night) by your ancestor Einar Sigurđsson will be sung in every church in Iceland as has been done for centuries. Einar Sigurđsson (1536-1626) was a minister at several places before he became a minister in Heydalir, also called Eydalir, in East Iceland. That benefice was "given" to him by his son Oddur Einarsson who had become a bishop in Skálholt.
Einar's first wife was Margrét Helgadóttir (1523-1567). They had eight children, five of them died in childhood. One year after his wife's death Einar remarried. His second wife was Ólöf Ţórarinsdóttir (1549-??). They had 10 children, five daughters and five sons. All of them reached to be adult. As you can imagine, the descendants of Einar are numerous. It is said that all living Icelanders are his descendants. That includes you too!
You find Einar Sigurđsson by clicking the GenWeb-link.

 My Gratitude Folks!
Friends, this is probably the last Newsletter for the year. For ten months I have, with some irregularity, used it to keep closer in touch with you than I was able to do ever before. Having though been on the Web for almost 10 years with my website The Emigration from Iceland to North America. And ... sure I have had fun these last months. The number of "subscribers" have been increasing all the time and these days we are about 450 all together on the Mailing list. Not bad at all. But sure I would love to see more members on the list. And here you can help by urging your relatives and friends of Icelandic origin to join. Having said that, I'm indicating that my Newsletter will have at least some future. And again, for that your help is needed because this all depends on YOU :-) Send me some small stories, news you want to share or some information about your grandparents or great gandparents for the "Settler of the Week", preferably with photos please, if possible.
Well, what can I say more .... Oh yea, as Christmas is just around the corner I take the opportunity to say to all of you: Thanks for staying with me, thanks for all the good support and thanks for all the great comments on the Newsletter! It really means alot to me.

I wish you all a very

Editorial :-)

Gleđileg jól!
Merry Christmas!

The Distribution

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