Þorláksmessa

On the night before the night before Christmas, Þorláksmessa, or the evening of the 23rd, people flood Reykjavík's main shopping street for last minute shopping and a mass meet-and-greet. Cafes sell coffee to-go on the sidewalk and bands of Santas play holiday tunes on brass, woodwind and drum. People slip into restaurants and bars for cocoas dashed with Captain Morgan or a Christmas brew or two, and feed their kiddies chocolate cake to keep them happy. Downtown stores rake in more money this one night than they do all fall long, if the ever-fickle weather cooperates.

This year the weather was a crisp -8 celcius with only a slight breeze, making for a chilly but tolerable outdoor experience. Unfortunately we had a "red" Christmas, which means no snow, again. Some hard white ice pellets whipped out of the sky on Christmas Eve, but they blew right off the island and into the Altantic before we could properly call it snow.

It's been a long time since there's been decent snowfall in Reykjavik, believe it or not. Our one good flurry so far, in November, burned off within a week. It's snowing right now, but there's doubt that it will stick beyond the New Year. At least it's not the spooky 44 degrees fahrenheit it was last Yule, though. December in Cupertino California gets colder than that on a regular basis!

3 comments:

Cy said...

How in the world do you pronounce that word?

Maria Alva said...

Hi Cy. Happy Holidays! The first letter is a Þ, which looks like a P trying to hold it's bump up. It makes a Th sound like in bath. The á makes an ow sound. So, phonetically, the word is Thorlowks messa. Messa means mass, and the 12th century bishop Þorlák Þorláksson was Iceland's first saint, whose bones were 'taken up' in 1198 and made holy. His mass, then, is celebrated on the evening before Christmas Eve.

Cy said...

Happy Holidays as well!
And thank you for the phonetic translation (as well as the meaning behind the word.) I love learning new stuff - never know when it might come in handy. ::smiles::