How does one approach the holiday season in the midst of gathering bans and social distancing? To learn, we’re sitting down with families all over Reykjavík to find out how they are navigating this peculiar time. For this debut iteration of the Pandemic Holiday Diaries, we’re talking to author Auður Ava Ólafsdóttir, her daughter Melkorka Sigríður Magnúsdóttir and her daughter Ísey Ava.
Thanks for talking to us Auður and Melkorka! So how has your 2020 been in general? How have you been tackling this pandemic?
Auður Ava: I went on my last literary trip abroad at the end of February. I had multiple invitations to literary festivals and events in different countries later in 2020, but in my head, I was actually busy trying to work out some excuse to stay home because I wanted to have more time to write.
Melkorka: And you came up with an excuse… But 2020 has been a crazy yet amazing year. I was living in Copenhagen at the beginning of the year but came home to Iceland because of the pandemic in March. It was difficult not being able to hug each other.
Auður Ava: The worst thing about the pandemic is that people started fearing each other. In the beginning, it was difficult meeting someone that you were happy to see—for instance at the supermarket—because people know that artists openly display their feelings and feared that you might want to hug them.
Melkorka: Being able to stay at home for a few months in your own bubble has been precious. COVID makes you appreciate the small things in life like taking a walk, going to the swimming pool or spending some time in the countryside. My boyfriend and I have spent time renovating an old cottage that belonged to my grandparents.
Auður Ava: It has been a productive and creative year for me personally. I finished my new novel Dýralíf (‘The Human Animal’) at the end of July.
Melkorka: It has been a productive and creative year for me too! Not in terms of standing on stage having concerts and dance performances, but because I had a baby at the end of July. Ísey Ava got her first name from a character in my mom’s novel Miss Iceland and her middle name from its author. She’s going to be five months at Christmas!
Auður Ava: She was born the same day that I finished my new novel and sent the manuscript to my editor.
Do your holidays look different this year due to the pandemic? How so?
Auður Ava: Yes, but not really because of the pandemic but rather because of the new family member. We will be three generations around the Christmas table this year. We are all very excited.
Melkorka: Ísey Ava will get a rubber duck for her bath as her first Christmas present (but don’t tell her!).
What are some of your favourite holiday traditions? How are you adapting them for 2020?
Melkorka: We will be five persons at the dinner table this year, but when I was a child, we used to be 25 at my grandparent’s house. Christmas is all about traditions so we are having my great-grandmother’s menu this year.
Auður Ava: Möndlugrautur (rice pudding) as a starter, then a one-hundred-years-old Danish recipe, a sort of a meatloaf that you bake on low heat for hours, and lastly, a homemade strawberry ice cream with strawberries from the garden. You can also make it all vegan.
What’s your advice on how to have a good pandemic-safe holiday season?
Melkorka: Order your Christmas presents online. If you are looking for a very special present, something that you can plant and will grow, I strongly recommend the miniature edition of the firework flowers, which were planted in Hallargarður last summer by choreographer Sigriður Soffia Níelsdóttir. [Click here for more information.] Then tune in to all the online Christmas concerts and dance at home.
Auður Ava: And read books because books allow you to travel and live many parallel lives while staying at home.
Melkorka: Absolutely! And then you can also travel by cooking some exotic dishes from each country you’d like to visit.
Auður Ava: Melkorka is a wonderful cook. At my place, it is more likely to be Barilla spaghetti.
Melkorka: The most important thing is don’t stress!
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