It’s no secret that December is the darkest and spookiest month. It is by far also the booziest. The overwhelming joy one often associates with the Christmas frenzy increases the longing for a nightcap, the fright that correlates with mass expenditures in gifts and other holiday nonsense calls for some alcohol, and when you intend to bid farewell to the passing year you’ll want a bottle of liquor by your side. It seems there’s no avoiding dipping your toes (or your entire foot) into the tantalizing Jacuzzi of holiday vice. You strangers: witness Grapevine’s guide to your Icelandic holiday drinking!
The Icelandic liquor infrastructure, those state-run liquor stores, have short opening hours. It gets worse over the holidays. So make a visit to Vínbúð early. And purchase in bulk. You’ll thank us later.
And so it begins…
The first day of hardcore debauchery is Þorláksmessa. The rambling begins at noon, when families and friends gather to fulfil their appetite with brennivín and rotted skate, which smells so foul, you’ll have to drown the maggoty taste with a whole lot of Brennivín to survive. The fun continues through the day, usually ending in an uncontrollable frenzy at the local bars. The funny part of all this is that Þorláksmessa is also the day when you finalize your Xmas shopping. This is no match made in heaven. The only reason bars are open on the 24th from noon ‘til two is so unfortunates can pick up their left-behind presents. So my advice is: find a local and convince him to invite you in for rotted skate. If that doesn’t work out, find a restaurant that serves the horrendous dish and report for duty at the bars in the evening.
Day II of depravity
If you don’t recognize the holiday “Second in Christmas,” it’s because we made it up. To get shitfaced. Christmas day is usually spent on family gatherings. This lasts ‘til midnight on December 26th, when the bars remove the chains from their doors. Be aware that the bars are only open between midnight and 3 AM, so you’ll have to try and imbibe as much alcohol as possible in those three hours. In light of this, it might not come as a surprise that the average bar sales are usually greater in these three hours than on a regular 8 PM-6 AM night. After a bunch of after partying, you’ll probably end up with your holiday booze stash empty. But don’t worry, Vínbúð opens up again, so you can re-stock.
The Messy Finale
Now we’re finally there, New Year’s Eve. The craziest night of the year. Supposedly. The first thing you have to do is clear out all your expectation, ‘cause grand ones might disappoint you. A lot of the locals tend to give the clubs the finger on this particular night, but they tend to be wrong. If you’re visiting I’d recommend you’d score a ticket to one of those New Year’s celebrations, but if you get invited to a local party – definitely go for it. It’s a wise move to go up to Perlan or by Hallgrímskirkja to watch the ludicrous fireworks and fire up a few, you’ll be able to mingle with crazy Icelanders that are probably planning a 24-hour party. Whatever you do though, don’t go to sleep. Things won’t heat up until around 8 AM, and if you play it right you won’t remember anything the morning after, won’t recognize where you are and don’t recall what you did. And that’s the reason why it will be, in your memory, the craziest night of the year.