Þorrablót is an Icelandic midwinter festival that takes place in the month of Þorri, according to the Old Icelandic Calendar, which starts in late January and ends in late February. These festivals were started by Icelandic student associations in the latter half of the 19th century.
The month Thorri starts in the 13. week of winter, 19.-25. january, the month is the according to the old Icelandic calendar. This is often the hardest winter month in Iceland. So, in the last decades it has been traditional to have celebrations, Thorrablot (blot is the name of the old heathen “masses” in honour of the old gods), where people mix up old traditions and new traditions, and have generally a good time.
The Þorrablót fests are can vary from being an informal dinner with friends and family to large organised events where entertainment and activities are scheduled. Participants usually hold speeches, originally to honour the Norse god Thor. The Thorrablot celebration starts with dinner. For the midwinter feast, Icelanders serve what was normal day-to-day food for Vikings, and turn back to nature-made food that is smoked, laid in mysa (a sour milk-product), salted, dried or kaestur (rotting and setting meat).
On the dish following dishes are included with more modern selection of food (for the ones that can not have full meal of the traditional food).
Kæstur hákarl, putrefied Shark, served in small cubes. It is prepared by burying it for several weeks, and then hanging it up and allowing it to dry. Wash down with a shot of cold Brennivín (caraway schnapps). Believe it or not, this is actually good for the digestion – especially before eating the heavy Þorri food.
Súrsaðir hrútspungar, the testicles of rams pressed in blocks, boiled and cured in lactic acid. Has little taste of it’s own, and a texture reminiscent of pressed cod roe.
Svið, singed and boiled sheep heads. The name refers to the tradition of burning away (svíða) all the hair from the head before cooking. This gives the meat a smoky flavour. The heads are cut in half lengthwise and the brains removed before cooking.
Sviðasulta, head cheese or brawn made from svið. This is quite good when pickled, and delicious fresh. It is made by cutting up the meat from cooked sheep’s heads (svið), pressing into moulds and cooling. The cooking liquid turns into jelly when cold, and keeps the whole thing together.
Lifrarpylsa (also known as sláturliver sausage), a sausage made from the offal and liver of sheep kneaded with rye flour
After the Thorrablot dinner, get ready for group games and old songs and stories, accompanied by Brennivin (Iceland’s strong schnapps). It’ll definitely get that rotten meat taste out of your mouth.
Blóðmör (also known as slátur along with Lifrarpylsa, meaning slaughter), a type of blood pudding, which is prepared like lifrarpylsa without the liver and adding blood. Both are cooked before pickling. Both are quite good when fresh, but take on wholly different taste when pickled, which people either love or hate.
Hangikjot, (hung meat), smoked and boiled lamb or sheep meat. Hangikjöt is an old favourite of the Icelanders. For centuries, Icelanders have smoked, pickled and dried food for preservation, and hangikjöt is one of the most delicious of the smoked products. It may be eaten either hot or cold, and is traditionally served with cooked potatoes, white sauce, peas and pickled red cabbage. It is still the most favoured Christmas meal for many Icelanders.
Harðfiskur, wind-dried fish (often cod, haddock or seawolf), beaten to soften it and served with butter beaten to soften it. In olden times harðfiskur was eaten like bread in those homes that could only afford flour for baking on special occasions. It is still Iceland’s favourite snack, and a popular travel food.
Rúgbrauð (rye bread), traditional Icelandic rye bread. Top with pickled herring for an entrée, eat on the side with the main courses.
Flatbrauð (flat bread), this traditional bread is delicious with butter and a slice of “hangikjöt” (smoked Lamb) as a snack.
Lundabaggi, sheep’s loins wrapped in the meat from the sides, pressed and cured in lactic acid
Bringukollar (breast meat), these are cuts of really fat meat on the bone, which have been boiled before pickling. As the name suggests, these pieces come from the breast of the animal.
After the Thorrablot dinner get ready for group games and old songs and stories, accompanied by Brennivin (Iceland’s strong schnapps) and probably some traditional shark bite followed by shot of Brennivin (wich makes the taste of the shark well manageable). Later in the evening, dances start and often continue until the early morning when Thorrablot celebrations draw to an end.