From Iceland — Reykjavík Christmas City

Reykjavík Christmas City

Published December 6, 2011

Reykjavík Christmas City

If there’s one cause to which the perpetual dusk of Icelandic winter is sympathetic, it’s that of Christmas decorations. Indeed, no lights are quite as lustrous as those delicate orbs of white lining the trees, the streets, the buildings downtown.
This year the city of Reykjavík is taking advantage of this fact, bolstered it seems—according to a speech made by Mayor Jón Gnarr—by being named the top Christmas destination on CNN’s affiliate CNNgo last year; the city is eager to live up to its reputation as a must-see Christmas travel destination and has introduced seven ‘Christmas creatures’ around the city—animated characters from Icelandic folklore that will adorn various houses through the holiday season.
Across from Sólon on the corner of Bankastræti and Ingólfsstræti lurks Grýla, a troll and mother to the thirteen Santas—the Yule Lads—who around Chrismastime descend from the mountains in search of misbehaved children…to eat. Along with her cat—the Christmas cat, rumored to be projected somewhere in the City Zoo—Grýla likes to feast on said naughty children, although her and the feline’s appetites are whetted a little differently: the Christmas cat eats only those unfortunate individuals who are badly equipped for the winter weather; those who are not gifted any clothing for Christmas “go to the Christmas cat.”
The “Christmas Creatures” concept was designed by Hafsteinn Júlíusson, and drawn and animated by Gunnar Karlsson.
Along with animations of five of the Lads, the cat, and mama troll, the project also includes a digital snowfall projected onto the side of the Cathedral, an animation that can be downloaded on the Visit Reykjavík website and projected by one and all at will on walls, indoor as outdoor.
The idea is delightfully simple; as designer Hafsteinn describes it: “It’s just an idea projected onto a wall. We’re not having to building anything.”
As we inch closer to December 21, the shortest day of the year in Iceland, the darkness remains charming, for now. While the lights are on, we hardly notice the window of light steadily dwindling… at its worst, down to about two hours a day.
Says Mayor Jón Gnarr: “This goes strictly against the promises of Besti Flokkurinn to consolidate all the Santas into one.” But at Christmas, we paint our devils on the wall; our worst fears projected onto the architecture: Consume more clothing! Consume more food! Think of the children!

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