12 December 2006

'tis the season

I came back from Holland to find that Iceland’s inexorable flurry towards Christmas was in full swing. The office is trimmed with silver balls and lights, garlands string down Laugavegur, and Icelandic carols stream from all corners. It may be the darkest time of year but this country knows how to put on a show. This morning I went for a swim at the pool where the white light garlands bedecked the panel of windows along the back, and on the notice board it’s crammed with notices of Christmas concerts. Walking home, I passed the grocery store that had set out the advent candles near the door, and a cart full of pine branches that exuded yuletide evergreen fragrance.

Today at lunch we had the special Christmas eve dinner- ham, potatoes, carrots, and brussel sprouts, accessorized with jam and of course, purple cabbage. Almond pudding with cherry sauce followed, and then, as the rising sun brightened the massive white expanse of Esja to the north, we listened to Christmas carols sung by co-workers. Nothing like the Icelandic rendition of “We wish you a merry Christmas” to put one in the mood and remind me that although some things are familiar, this still ain’t quite home.

Still, things do fit better than last year. I know when the hangikjöt’s coming, I know to expect candles and ginger cookies, and while there are and will continue to be some new flavors and experiences, those things I remember from last year are already welcome in their reappearance. Also, I remember jealously watching last year as our daylight slipped away, mourning each minute’s disappearance. This year I’m looking at the numbers only when someone outside of Iceland asks how the light is, but it hasn’t been a preoccupation like before. It’s dark, it’s light, but it’s always changing. The hour and a half of pre-sunrise is a special electric time anyway, when the hillsides are still dark but the promise of sun burns flourescent on the horizon in the form of shocking pink clouds and blazing rays that light up the sky. I sit on the southern side of the office, so the sun’s short arc is now all in my view, from the prolonged sunrise to the lazy progress at sunset. It may not be gorgeous weather all the time, but these transitional times are three times longer than in Boston, so when it is clear, there's plenty of time to enjoy it.


semi_icelander said...

But the light in the opposite direction is not less amazing, since the Esja or some chlouds or both reflects in different colours the sunrise. So I enjoy my view, too.

Anonymous said...

I adore those early dawn moments. They are full of hope and contemplation. Very calming.

Wow. I've been away from this blog too long! I traveled a bit and wasn't out of internet touch but short short short on time for fun. But it's left me giddy taking a moment this morning to read an entry here. Lovely stuff.

Icelandic writer: Arnaldur Indriðason. I believe this is the first Icelandic writer I've read. I'm reading his novel Jar City with great interest. Sometimes I just want a good mystery. Arnaldur has an interesting approach.

tsduff said...

When my Sweetie introduced me to hangikjöt a few years ago, I fell in love! There is nothing in the states that compares with it. We brought back a few hunks of it last time we went to Iceland, but I'm afraid this year will be a sad Christmas without it. We are sending G's daughter over to spend Christmas with her Grandmother and Aunt in Kopavogi this Saturday. I wish I was going too :-)

ECS said...

semi_icelander: I agree that the view the other direction is equally spectacular. I just don't get to see it as often.

ck: you MUST come to iceland at this time of year. The light is breathtaking when it's clear. I'm in love almost daily :-)

Terry- My parents are equally hooked on the strange flavor after they spent Easter here. They imported all the extras for the traditional dinner to the States when they left, and I brought them a chunkolamb when I visited in October. There was much joy all around when I did!