Akureyri Local Astounded by Dated Christmas Tree Tradition

Every year, the city of Akureyri puts up a Christmas tree on Ráðhústorg plaza.

This year, Akureyri local Aðalheiður Ingadóttir invited the city to put up her tree, a sizable spruce from her backyard that she planned on felling, RÚV reports.

The city turned down the offer, explaining that every year it received a Christmas tree from its sister town Randers in Denmark – a tradition stretching back 30 years.

Ingadóttir – who believed such traditions were a thing of the past – was astounded. Dissatisfied with the city’s rationale, she doubled down on her offer, reminding city officials that there was still plenty of time to call off the shipment.

“There are still two months until Christmas.”

In an interview with RÚV, Ingadóttir stressed that it was not about her tree, in particular; rather, the idea of importing a Christmas tree from Denmark amid an upswing in forestry – and when the Kjarnaskógur forest lay just south of the city – was absurd.

Something to Review

Asked by RÚV whether the tradition was at odds with the city’s environmentally-friendly policy, Guðríður Erla Friðriksdóttir – Director of Akureyri’s Environmental and Engineering Division – was amenable to the suggestion.

It’s something that we must review.”

Friðriksdóttir conceded that there are many more trees on municipal-owned land today when compared to 30 years ago, making the option of putting up homegrown trees viable. This would be a positive step for the city, Friðriksdóttir added.

Discontinuing the tradition with Randers has probably been up for discussion at one point or another. But no decision has been made. It is, nonetheless, a suggestion worth considering.”

A Dying Tradition?

As noted in the above-mentioned article by RÚV, the giving of Christmas trees between sister towns has become less common over the years. Akureyri is not the only town that receives a Christmas tree from abroad. The town of Hafnarfjörður receives its tree from Germany. Christmas trees have also been sent from Iceland abroad, e.g. Fljótsdalshérað, which sends its sister town in Runavik, in the Faroe Islands, a Christmas tree. The municipality of Árborg receives trees from citizens looking to get rid of them and uses them come Christmas.

Former President First to Contribute Voice Sample

This morning, former president Vigdís Finnbogadóttir became the first to contribute a voice sample to a project aiming to develop language technology tools for Icelandic. The project hopes to ensure that the Icelandic language remains on equal footing with other languages in the digital age (the project also aims to preserve and protect the Icelandic language itself, and to increase access to essential technologies in the public and private sector).

The project is sponsored by the Icelandic Centre for Language Technology (Almannarómur), which is under the guardianship of Vigdís Finnbogadóttir and Guðni Th. Jóhannesson (Iceland’s current president).

As of noon today, anyone can contribute their own voice sample on the website Samrómur. Participants are encouraged to record a brief sound clip that will be used to develop software to aid computers in understanding and speaking Icelandic. Participants are also encouraged to confirm the accuracy of other sound clips in order to improve the quality of the corpus. The website aims to collect a wide variety of anonymous samples.

“Icelandic is a unique language that has changed less than other languages over the past one thousand years. Owing to rapid technological changes, however, the Icelandic language faces a difficult situation. Many of us communicate with computers and other machines in foreign languages. By teaching computers to speak and understand Icelandic we increase the likelihood that the Icelandic language will continue to survive and thrive in the modern world. We have the power.“ (Samrómur.is)

1,000 Tons of Cod-Equivalents Sold Away from Grímsey

All shares in the fishing company Sigurbjörn ehf. in Grímsey – Iceland’s northernmost inhabited island – have been sold, RÚV reports. The company has a fishing allowance of 1,000 cod-equivalents (a unit referring to weight and relative value of different fish species on the market), which will disappear from Grímsey.

According to Ólafur Helgi Marteinsson, managing director of Rammi ehf. in Fjallabyggð, Rammi has purchased all the shares in Sigurbjörn ehf. The purchase price is confidential, and the contract is subject to the proviso that the Competition Authority approves the purchase.

Gylfi Gunnarsson, owner of Sigurbjörn ehf. – which has operated three boats and a fish-processing plant on the island – declined to comment. The company employs approximately nine people and has a fishing allowance of 1,040,796 cod-equivalents.

In 2017, the fishing company Borgarhöfði was sold from the island, along with its fishing allowance, which came as a hard blow to inhabitants of Grímsey. At the time, RÚV quoted spokespersons for the two remaining fishing companies in Grímsey – Sigurbjörn ehf. and Sæbjörg ehf. – who assured RÚV that following restructuring of debts their operations were secure (the two companies were in a precarious position owing to mounting debts to Íslandsbanki). The spokespersons added that there was no intention of selling the companies, nor the quota, from the island, for such a thing would likely strike a mortal blow to the settlement in Grímsey, whose principal industrial activity is commercial fishing.

Inhabitants of Grímsey have participated in the Fragile Communities project since the summer of 2015. Reversing the steady emigration from the island has, however, proven unsuccessful. This fall, islanders appealed to the Icelandic Regional Development Institute (which sponsors the Fragile Communities Project) and the town of Akureyri to extend the project. The designated settlement quota that accompanies the project is the prerequisite for fishing operations on the island: the fishing companies are small and operations are difficult. Since 2015, the Icelandic Regional Development Institute has invested 21 million ISK in 18 projects connected to Grímsey. According to a 2018  census, 61 people live in Grímsey.

Rammi ehf. operates four trawlers, a shrimp processing plant in Fjallabyggð, and a freezing plant in Þorlákshöfn. The company employs approximately 250 people.

The Colourful Oddyssey of Icelandic Wool Dyeing

Wool dyeing Iceland

Following the winding outskirts of Reykjavík, a gravel road jostles you toward a wooden hut. The strong scent of herbs emanates from the doorway. Before you can enter into the warm space, Tryggur, a charmingly fluffy Labrador-collie mix, sidles up to you in shy greeting. He leads you in and sits down patiently amongst a colourful collection of yarns, waiting for a pat while his owner talks over the sound of gently bubbling pots.

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