Today Is Þorláksmessa, The Day Of Putrefied Skate - The Reykjavik Grapevine

Today Is Þorláksmessa, The Day Of Putrefied Skate

Published December 23, 2016

Photos by
Inga María Brynjarsdóttir

Today is an important family-friendly day for Icelandic winter holidays, as we celebrate the day of the patron saint of Iceland, Saint Þorlákur.

Þorlákur was a 12th century Icelandic bishop who was a prolific writer and archivist of Icelandic Christian lore, and was canonised in 1984. Today, Icelanders celebrate his memory by eating putrefied skate, prepared through lengthy fermentation in a sealed environment, after which it is usually steamed or boiled. The heady aroma of this dish will fill any enclosed area with a dense cloud of ammonia, bringing to mind Christmas for some, and the surface of Venus for others.

Traditionally, Icelandic families will gather together on this day and eat skate with rye bread, potatoes, butter, and brennivín, the Icelandic schnapps. Celebrations continue through the afternoon, culminating in a post-digestive lull by early evening, followed by going out to visit friends.

This holiday can be fun for everyone, though, even if you’re not a big fan of skate. The following video attests to just how enjoyable Þorláksmessa can be for Icelanders and visitors alike:


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