I am Icelandic on my father’s side. Perhaps that is why I have both an appreciation for the stark beauty of winter and a keen interest in celebrating the colour and light that rare sunshine brings into the season.
I have written about many winter holidays as suggestions for ways to make the most of the season. Imagine my delight when I discovered my ancestral homeland has a holiday for celebrating the sun coming back in winter.
Iceland has a special day called “Sólardagur” (Sun Day). Icelanders wish each other “Merry Sunrise” and celebrate by sharing coffee and Icelandic pancakes called ponnukokur. The best part is the day on which you choose to boost your mood with these special acts is flexible.
Traditionally it is around Jan. 25, when the sun returns to the tiny town of Ísafjörður in the Westfjords region. There, the shade from the mountains prevents the sun from peeking in between November and January. This is one of the places where they do experience darkness almost exclusively. In most of Iceland, the sun hovers low but does not fully disappear.
Throughout Iceland people celebrate Sólardagur at this time of year. Since the reason for the festivities is the sun returning, if it is a cloudy day, many people wait to share in the festivities when the sun peeks back out.
I know we are well past Jan. 25, but I’m reserving my right to bake a batch of ponnukokur on a sunny day this month.
I’ll host a “Sólarkaffi” gathering with some friends. The usual pancake filling in Iceland is rhubarb jam and whipped cream but I’ll add a family favourite to the menu.
My dad showed my brother and I when we were little how ponnukokur can be enjoyed to its fullest, warm or cold. Syrup is all well and good, but if you smear just enough butter on, and then spread a thin coating of brown sugar, you create nirvana. My dad called them “cigars.”
Icelanders are among the biggest coffee drinkers in the world. Maybe that is connected to living so close to the Arctic Circle. They are also very social, but the heart of winter has a way of putting even the heartiest of folks on a lower level.
I love that they created a concept to break the routine of the dark times that encourages everyone to celebrate life and share with loved ones. Food and drink work so well to accomplish that.
I’d love to hear your ideas. We could try them all and while away the days till spring.
This article is written by or on behalf of an outsourced columnist and does not necessarily reflect the views of Castanet.