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A beautiful christmas tradition

Visiting the cemetery forms part of many Icelanders Christmas rituals. Hey, it’s not as morbid as it might sound.

In the beginning of advent we light up our cemeteries with colourful christmas lights much to the astonishement of american soldiers and their families when they stayed here on the US Nato base situated just outside of Keflavík. It was a sight they were not accustomed to.

On December 24th, and often on New Year's Eve day as well, many families will come together at the graves of their loved ones and place on them a candle or some sort of light, to show that they are remembered and missed. This is a beautiful sight in the midwinter darkness.

This is a challenge in Icelandic weather when it can be both windy and freezing cold. Many times have I stood in the cemetery with blue fingers trying to light a candle, and sometimes I have lost the battle. But usally the cemetaries are packet with people doing the exact same thing and they will often lend a hand.

 

 

A leaf bread and a family

The making of Laufabrauð ‘leaf bread’ or ‘snow flake bread‘ is an essantial part of my family christmas celebration and starts the Advent and all the christmas preperation.

It´s a tradition from north Iceland where families get together to make this thin, crisp, unsweetened cake that is decorated with a carved pattern before it is deep-fried in lard.

Originally it was a poor mans bread since wheat was scarce and therefore the cakes where made as thin as possible.

My mother was from north Iceland, namely Þórshöfn, and maintained this tradition although she and her twin brother moved to the southest part of Iceland at a young age. The siblings joined forces and have met with their children and grandchildren to make this delicious christmas treat, but mainly it´s about togetherness and making happy memories.

After my mother passed away we carried on the tradition and this year we met at her brother´s house. Everyone has a part, wheather it is to man the frying pot, dip in the cakes, press them, salt them (very important) and decorate. The children take an active part and as they grow older they can contribute more - and hopefully carry on the tradition someday.

 How to make Laufabrauð

 

Baby it´s dark outside

Now the days are short and yes, we love this time of the year. Today´s sunrise was at 11.16 and sunset will be at 15:30 giving us a total of 4 hours of daylight. In just one week´s time the shortest day of the year will come.

The winter solstice happens every year when the North Pole is tilted furthest away from the Sun, delivering the fewest hours of sunlight of the entire year. The term “solstice” comes from the Latin word “solstitium”, which means “Sun standing still”.

There is a reason we call Christmas the festival of light and it is logical to celebrate it during the darkest hours in Iceland. After winter solstice each day becomes a little bit longer, but just a little bit. Around new years eve the day will be 13 minutes longer.

But it is a turning point that Icelanders have always celebrated, the darkness gives away and we let in the light again.

The sun in desember

Winter solstice festival of the Pagan Association

Tips on how to survive the darkest hours

 

Unearthing the Spirit of the Icelanic Horse

We are not known for our horses but we do have enthusiastic people winning awards at competitions who love breeding and riding the Icelandic horse.

Fiona Trowbridge a travel writer from Glasgow was amazed at the unique gaits of the Icelandic horse as she was whatching Signý, youngest daughter of Hrönn and Snorri who live in Keflavík.

“And this is the tölt,” said Hrönn as Chloe elegantly glided past us in the arena, with Hrönn and Snorri’s youngest daughter, Signý sitting comfortably in the saddle as Chloe and Signý demonstrated the smoothness of the tölt gait, one of two gaits unique to Icelandic horses.

Fionas tales have been featured in Wanderlust Magazine and Australia & New Zealand Magazine she has won The Telegraph travel writing competition twice.

fionatrowbridge@gmail.com

 

The sun lives in Gardur

Some people say that the sun lives in the little fishing town of Garður, the headland at the tip of the peninsula and it is also a great place to observe sea birds. 

It is true that the sunsets there are spectacular - with the Backdrop of two lighthouses and the glacier Snæfellsjökull (The mountain is one of the most famous sites of Iceland, primarily due to the novel Journey to the Center of the Earth (1864) by Jules Verne, in which the protagonists find the entrance to a passage leading to the center of the earth on Snæfellsjökull.

Snæfellsjökull isn´t exactly located on the Reykjanes Peninsula, but we claim it anyway, since it is always visiting and seems to have a keen interest in the area.

Garður or Garðskagi as we call the tip of land that reaches out to sea has its history of ships perishing on the skarry shore that has claimed a lot of lives over the centuries.

But it is peaceful at sunset and a popular visit during summertime, for people enjoying the outdoors as well as professional photographers.

The photographers dream

A walk in quirky Keflavík town

The town of Keflavík has a quirky side that was fun to explore one Saturday afternoon.

We went off the beaten track to discover hidden gems and humble things like that Laburnum or Gullregn that was able to grow from cement in a sunny corner of the local shop. You could see that the employers used the corner for smoking during breaks, probably to enjoy some beauty while they relaxed.

This is a colourful and happy home that invites you to knock on the door and ask for a coffee. I wonder what would happen?

Some say that beauty lies in the detail, and it is many things. There´s something about this house and its unfinished car. There´s a potential there, one day the car will have been restored to its former glory, and one day the people that live in the house will have a fine porch, but in the meantime, they are enjoying life and are ready to enjoy some sun, the next time it´s around.

 

berries, berries, berries

This fall is good for berries.

We had a good spring and sunny summer and now is the time to claim the rewards. The hills are alive with berries, mostly crowberries. The blue berries can be found in some places on the Reykjanes Peninsula but locals keep the location a secret.

Picking crowberries at Þorbjörn mountain near Grindavík

Me and my friend Anna went for a hike on Þorbjörn mountain but it took a long time because we ate so many berries on the way.

It´s also great to use them in jam or just a juice. You can pick berries anywhere except on private land, then it is polite to ask for permission.

Soon we will have frost at night so you´ll need to be quick. 

Eat berries, they´re good for you!

 

The fog, the beach and some yoga

What better way to soak in the last days of summer and enjoy the rugged nature of the Reykjanes Peninsula than doing yoga in the fresh air at sunset?

Anna Margrét Ólafsdóttir and her friend Tabatha Tarran physiotherapist, yoga and Pilates teacher had been doing Pop-up yoga outdoors during summer and decided to have the final session on the black beach Sandvík where they filmed the movie Flags of our fathers staring Mr. Clint Eastwood himself.



It´s a little tricky to find the turn off the road to the beach, and you have to be careful driving in the sand. But the beach isn´t far from the road.

We sat up our yoga matresses and Ingi, Anna Margrét´s husband was in charge of the bonfire. Soon people were arriving to the beach, ready for some stretches and the sun was shining.

It was majestic to do yoga with the wonderful view of the sea and the nearing sunset. Suddenly we saw a fog coming in over the sea. In Icelandic the word for the phenomenon would be Þokubakki. As we did our poses we were surrounded by it which gave an eerie and mystic feeling.

So because of the fog we missed the sunset but we made up for it by lighting a bonfire and gathered around it to participate in Anna´s chanting. Afterwards we had tea to warm us up because the evenings in Iceland are always a bit chilly.
We stayed there for a little bit but soon it was time to go because it was getting dark and we didn´t want to get lost.


Learn more about Sandvík