By Dianne O'Konski
Thorri (Þorri), the fourth month of winter on the Icelandic calendar begins on Jan. 24th – the first Friday after January 19th! Scholars believe that the name of the month “Thorri” is either taken from the Norwegian king Thorri Snærsson or from Thor, the God of Thunder (my bet is on the latter).
Bóndadagur, or Husband's (or Farmer’s) Day, is the first day of Thorri, a day dedicated to the Master of the House. Wikipedia says that, according to Jón Árnason in his 1864 book Þjóðsögur (Folk Tales), “the master of the house should arise on the celebration day, put only one leg of his trousers and underwear on, and hop around outside calling men on neighboring farms to attend a feast to welcome the month of Þorri.” That must be quite a sight!
A highpoint of the month is the Thorrablot. Before Christianity, this mid-winter feast was a sacrificial offering to the gods. Traditional Icelandic food was served followed by traditional songs, games, and storytelling. Potent Brennivin, schnapps made from potatoes and caraway, flowed freely. Thorrablots were banned for a period of time after Christianity arrived in Iceland in the year 1000. The tradition was revived in 1873 when a group of Icelanders studying in Copenhagen decided to gather and celebrate in the old style and dream of Iceland’s independence.
Today’s Thorrablot in the U. S. is likely pretty tame compared to the past. Icelanders and guests gather and, in many cases, share a traditional meal and may enjoy some Brennivin, but the singing, games, and storytelling have been replaced many times by a more formal program. Some Icelandic clubs and gatherings may meet for a lunch or coffee instead of a large feast. If you are not close to an Icelandic club or if your club does not celebrate Thorrablot, you can start your own tradition: gather your friends, ask each one to bring food to share, and celebrate the day. If you wish, there are many stories online that can be shared, and music is also available online. The main point is a mid-winter gathering over food!