Star signs, Christmas preparations. Posted by hulda on Nov 26, 2012 in Icelandic culture, Icelandic customs
Today, according to the old Norse calendar, begins Ýlir, the second month of winter. It’s the month of Jól (= Yule) and some scholars have suggested that the month either gets its name from the holiday or possibly from old English month names Ærra Géola (= December) and Æfterra Géola (= January). Ýlir always begins on a Monday and on the fifth week of winter, between the 20th and the 27th November. It’s the darkest month of the whole year.
So what are some typical things to do during this month in Iceland?
The darkness can be a little bit overpowering outside of the towns. Photo taken somewhere near Mosfellsbær, looking at the lights of Reykjavík.
You can look at the night sky a lot!
I’m not kidding, this time of the year is excellent for spotting aurora and in general looking at the stars. Buildings are low so their light does not hide the night sky and right now the star viewing season is at its best. In astrology this month is ruled by Bogmaðurinn, the Sagittarius. Here are the rest of the signs.
Stjörnumerkin (= the horoscopes)
Hrútur (= Aries)
Naut (= Taurus)
Tvíburi (= Gemini)
Krabbi (= Crab)
Ljón (= Leo)
Meyja (= Virgo)
Vog (= Libra)
Sporðdreki (= Scorpio)
Bogmaður (= Sagittarius)
Steingeit (= Capricorn)
Vatnsberi (= Aquarius)
Fiskur (= Pisces)
Begin to prepare Yule/Christmas presents – soft parcels are preferred!
In the old days Ýlir was the time of furious knitting. Everyone needed a new item of clothing to survive the Jólahátið (= Christmas holiday): there was a cat monster called Urdarkötturinn walking around on the Christmas day, killing and eating everyone who didn’t receive at least one present of new clothes for Christmas. Children knew to behave because that monster was not the only threat. A troll woman called Grýla, the mother of the current 13 “Santa Clauses”, the Jólasveinar (= Christmas lads), ate naughty children for dinner.
Dig out ALL the Christmas lights!
Icelanders go all out with the lights and perhaps they have some very good reasons. Electricity is cheap here and the winter nights are quite dark, add to this that Icelanders seem to absolutely love to give the neighborhood a high class light show (I’m not kidding here either: on out street there’s one house with full rainbow-lit front, another that has bought a matching set of star-shaped lights just this year and a third one that likes plastic Santa-shaped lamps) and there you have it. It’s also worth a notice that over here Christmas lights aren’t only for Christmas. They’re put up around this time of the year and left on for the whole dark season. It looks unusual but to me it seems both a cozy and practical an idea. Giving up to the darkness would be depressing but when fighting it, why not fight it with something cute?
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