Published December 16, 2014
The children were nestled all snug in their beds, while visions of sugarplums danced in their heads. And their teeny-tiny bellies rumbled all fill’d with seven kinds of animals kill’d and smoked, salted, cured, canned, hung, dried, buried, beaten, signed, sealed, delivered, it’s yours.
Welcome to the food-a-geddon. Leave your gag reflex at the door and let the gavage begin!
The Yule Lads
For children, Christmas starts on December 12, when the first of the thirteen Yule Lads comes crawling through their window bearing the gifts of knick-knacks and terror sweat. In many cases those gifts are candies. No one knows what foul black magick these homeless wildmen employ to emulate brand-name candies so expertly.
For adults, the Icelandic food orgy usually starts with a company Christmas buffet. The buffets are a floating date and can happen anytime between mid-November until December 23. Literally translated, “hlaðborð,” the Icelandic word for buffet, means “loaded table.” As the name implies, it’s an all-you-can-eat gastrointestinal onslaught that puts the legendary Icelandic Zen-like patience and queuing prowess to the test. A working couple can expect to attend at least two such buffets courtesy of their employers. Their respective families may decide they need a third and a fourth. It is during this period that belt storeowners invest in that second summer home.
St. Þorlákur’s Mass (December 23)
In a desperate attempt to turn ourselves against all forms of food and a loving God (thereby rendering Christmas powerless), we at some point took to stuff our faces with rotten skate for Þorláksmessa, the day before the day before Christmas. At some point it was decided that St. Þorlákur was best honoured with a day of bingeing on rotten fish and caraway seed alcohol.
Do note that referring to the fish as “rotten” isn’t entirely correct. Technically, the skate is chock-full of urea, which it can’t expel, and by letting it ferment over the course of a few weeks it literally gets pickled in its own urine. Should you decide to participate, you will need to wear your laundry-day clothes because you’ll be throwing those clothes out or storing them in a lead coffin until next year. You may wish to throw away your mouth as well.
Christmas Eve (Dec 24)
The lamb opened the seventh seal and now the four horsemen are here. Clad in its winter dress, rode the ptarmigan, a stout game bird that is slowly disappearing from our Holiday tables due to lowered hunting quotas, which are due to a decline in the stock. On a black horse, wielding a bathroom scale, rode the hangikjöt, smoked and heavily salted lamb dressed from head to toe in béchamel. Perched on a red horse, saddled with shredded red cabbage and studded with garlic, a leg of lamb rode forth. At last I look, and behold, an ashen horse and who sat on it had the name of Hamborgarhryggur, salty slab of pork named after the city of Hamburg and in its wake all of my extended family followed.
Christmas Day: The Gavage (December 25)
This is when lesser nations start their Holiday celebrations. Foolish mortal. We are just getting started. You didn’t think you’d get off this easy? The infection spreads to other households, now you will be expected to eat AND leave the house. Binge drinking is generally discouraged on the 24th, but gets more acceptable as the holidays wear on. Incidentally, “þunnur” is the Icelandic term for being hungover. That word literally means “thin.” So we’re all literally drinking ourselves thin in Iceland. Maybe you won’t need that lapband surgery after all.
Second Day of Christmas: The Wreckoning (December 26)
Haven’t had enough of your extended family? You have? No matter, here’s more of the same!
Convince yourself you’re an highly conditioned athlete with a resting pulse of 45 and that all this carboloading is part of a well-planned Crossfit conditioning program. Learn to embrace the recovery position.
New Year’s Eve (Dec 31)
It’s been five days since The Feeding. You are starting to relax. The salt is exuding from your pores in greasy lumps. Changing the linen no longer makes you black out. Jesus and Santa ran a gravy train through your digestive system but you survived and your various sphincters are starting to clam up. But wait…what is this. No, please, I really shouldn’t! Sweet mother of…