Merry Christmas from the Iceland Review Team!

Christmas
Icelanders have several Christmas traditions that may seem unique or peculiar to outsiders. They include welcoming the 13 Yule Lads throughout December, listening to the Christmas Eve mass on the radio, and making laufabrauð with the whole family. Still, like elsewhere across the world, the heart of Icelandic Christmas is gathering with loved ones and making time to make bright memories to light up the dark winter nights. Wherever you are this holiday season and however and whatever you celebrate, we hope you can spend time with your nearest and dearest, and perhaps also with a good book – or magazine.
The Iceland Review team would like to wish our readers and their loved ones happy holidays and gleðileg jól. Merry Christmas and thanks for reading!

Deep North Episode 55: Christmas Craftsman

laufabrauð christmas iceland

In the weeks leading up to Christmas, families and friends in Iceland come together to make the traditional fried and decorated wafer known as laufabrauð (leaf bread). Rolled out thin, decorated, and fried, the preparation of these treats is an event that brings together families, often with multiple generations taking part. But you won’t find Laufabrauðsdagur (Leaf Bread Day) on any official calendar, as each family chooses their own date. Still, for Icelanders, it’s as much a part of the holiday season as Christmas itself.

But unknown even to many Icelanders, much of this tradition now rests in the hands of one craftsman, the last craftsman in Iceland to make the distinctive roller that so many use to make laufabrauð. A stone’s throw from Reykjavík, in the shadow of Esja mountain, his small workshop is keeping a beloved tradition alive.

Read the story here.

The Christmas Craftsman

laufabrauð christmas iceland

In the weeks leading up to Christmas, families and friends in Iceland come together to make the traditional fried and decorated wafer known as laufabrauð (leaf bread). Rolled out thin, decorated, and fried, the preparation of these treats is an event that brings together families, often with multiple generations taking part. But you won’t find […]

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Iceland’s Swimming Pools and Laufabrauð Proposed as Intangible Cultural Heritage

Laufabrauð.

Minister of Culture Lilja Dögg Alfreðsdóttir wants Iceland’s government to nominate the country’s swimming pool culture and laufabrauð (a traditional Icelandic bread made at Christmastime) to the UNESCO Lists of Intangible Cultural Heritage, RÚV reports. The Árni Magnússon Institute for Icelandic Studies took part in determining which aspects of Icelandic culture would be nominated for the lists.

Laufabrauð is a thin, decorative, fried bread made and eaten during the Christmas season in Iceland. It originated in North Iceland but is now eaten throughout the country. The geometric patterns in the bread are cut by hand or using a brass roller. Making laufabrauð is often an activity that brings together families in Iceland and an unmissable part of Christmas celebrations.

“I think we can all agree that laufabrauð and the Christmas tradition is something that brings the whole family together and is unique to Iceland,” Lilja stated. “And then of course this rich swimming pool culture, which is, in my opinion, absolutely magnificent and a huge attraction for the country as a tourist destination.”

Geothermal swimming pools are a feature of most towns in Iceland and are a source of relaxation, physical exercise, and social interaction for locals. While modern geothermal swimming pools were largely built starting in the middle of the 20th century, the use of natural geothermal pools stretches back many centuries in Iceland.

UNESCO’s Lists of Intangible Cultural Heritage were established in 2008. They aim to ensure the better protection of important intangible cultural heritages worldwide. Argentine tango is one example of a tradition included on the lists, and France’s “artisanal know-how and culture of baguette bread” was added last year. If approved, swimming pool culture and laufabrauð would be the first items on the list unique to Iceland.

Year in Review 2019: Most Entertaining

sheep on the road Iceland

Now that we’ve covered some of the heavy hitter news articles this year, it’s time for a different tune. There’s always some news which are just too weird, too random, or even mind-boggling, for us to not mention them in the Year in Review. Last year we witnessed NATO troops drinking Reykjavík dry as 7,000 thirsty troops descended upon the capital. “They were hardworking, the dear boys,” a brewery employee remarked when asked about the military invasion. This year, there’s a lot to look at. Without further ado, here’s the year’s most entertaining news.

Oldest McDonald’s Burger in the World?

In 2009, Hjörtur Smárason purchased the last McDonald’s burger sold in Iceland before the fast-food restaurant ceased operations in the country for good. One decade later, the burger, and its accompanying fries, still look as good as new. The order is currently being displayed at a guesthouse in South Iceland, which provides a live stream of the peculiar exhibit. “I had heard something about McDonald’s never decaying, so I just wanted to find out for myself whether this was true or not,” Hjörtur explained. Hjörtur gifted the burger to the National Museum of Iceland, who sought advice from a Danish specialist on how to preserve the item. The specialist deemed the task impossible – though Hjörtur pointed out it seemed to be doing just fine. “I think he was wrong because this hamburger preserves itself.” Hjörtur eventually reached out to friends who run Snotra House in Þykkvibær, South Iceland, and the burger and fries are now on display in the lounge of the guesthouse. Ten years since their purchase, neither seems to show any signs of decay. McDonald’s opened its doors in Iceland in 1993. In October 2009, the chain announced that it would be closing

Bright start

The year started out with two mini controversies that prove Icelanders have an opinion on everything. The mayor of Westfjords town Bolungarvík complained to Google Maps as satellite images of the town always show it covered in a blanket of snow. Apparently, it isn’t always like that! He got his wish in the end – just have a look for yourself. Bolungarvík hit the news again later as they intend to use piglets for weed control. You do you, Bolungarvík.

In other news – palm trees in Reykjavík? January saw an uproar for planned outdoor palm trees in a glass case which were due to be placed outside Reykjavík apartment complex. Maybe it isn’t the correct climate, as that same month a very rare occurrence happened on a capital-area golf course – picture-perfect snow rolls. Later that month, nude paintings on the walls of the Central Bank of Iceland were taken down due to employee complaints.

Cloning a dog and McAfee

August came and went, with scientists discovering an unidentified creature on Iceland’s ocean floor and the bra fence in Brekkukot continued to grow. Oh, and Parliament passed a bill which finally allowed Icelanders to play bingo on Sundays.

Things took a weird turn as former president Ólafur Ragnar Grímsson cloned his dog Sámur and named it Samson. Diligent Iceland Review readers will have known that although there’s a naming committee for humans, you can name animals whatever you want. Unless it’s a horse, of course. Then you must go through the Horse Naming Committee.

John McAfee, founder of McAfee Antivirus, was discovered to have been in hiding in Dalvík, North Iceland. The owner of the restaurant which he supposedly lived above didn’t spot him at least. Maybe McAfee knew that Icelanders don’t exactly love talking to strangers.

Iceland vs. Iceland

Iceland – the country – finally won a years-long legal battle against the supermarket chain of the same name, who had secured an EU-wide trademark for the word “Iceland” in 2014. Icelandic authorities sued to have the trademark invalidated on the basis of being far too broad and creating a monopoly that prevented Icelandic companies from registering their products with reference to their country of origin.

This year, the European Union Intellectual Property Office (EUIPO) closed the case, ruling in favour of the country, and invalidating the supermarket’s trademark entirely, noting that “It has been adequately shown that consumers in EU countries know that Iceland is a country in Europe and also that the country has historical and economic ties to EU countries, in addition to geographic proximity.”

Sports can be entertaining – right?

In June, a dishwashing brush and an airport wait strained the diplomatic relationship between Turkey and Iceland. A Belgian man stuck a dishwashing brush in star players’ Emre Belozoglu’s face like a microphone while he was being interviewed by reporters. This happened following an unusually long wait at the airport. The Turkish government issued a diplomatic note to Iceland denouncing what it is calling “disrespectful” and “violent” behaviour against the country’s men’s national football team. Iceland won 2-0, but Turkey has not lost a single match since then.

This July, the Icelandic Cricket Association (an association that, yes, does exist, and is doing quite well) went viral in India as it offered Indian cricket star Ambadi Rayudu to play in Iceland. The offer was not accepted. In November, a Moldovan female choir amazed Icelanders with their beautiful rendition of Iceland’s national anthem before a EURO 2020 qualifier in Moldova.

December delights

December saw contestants in the Great British Bake Off attempt to make Icelandic Christmas delight laufabrauð. Earlier that month, Hollywood felt threatened by a single star in the small town of Hafnarfjörður, as musician Björgvin Halldórsson had his star removed. The beginning of the month saw the Christmas Cat arrived in downtown Reykjavík. The Christmas Cat is a favourite Icelandic Christmas tradition – it will eat children who do not get clothes as Christmas present. Fun? Maybe not. Entertaining? Very much so.

Headline highlights

Iceland Review writers did their part to provide entertainment with some exquisite headlines. Dunkin Donuts’ arrival in Iceland was a failure, having arrived in 2015 and left in 2019. But we did get this headline: ‘Iceland Did Not Go Nuts for Dunkin Donuts’.

Another one to mention is an unfortunate event in Kenya when an airplane once owned by an Icelandic airline went off the runway. But we got the headline ‘Old Icelandic Fokker Skids Off Runway’.

Hope you enjoyed the most entertaining news of the year as much as we did! Happy New Year!

 

 

 

British Bake Off Contestants Attempt Icelandic Laufabrauð

laufabrauð the great british bake off

Making Icelandic laufabrauð, an intricately decorated Christmas treat, was the challenge contestants faced on a special Christmas edition of The Great British Bake Off. The episode was shown on Stöð 2 last Thursday.

The Great British Bakeoff, is a popular cooking show where baking enthusiasts compete to be crowned the UK’s Best Amateur Baker. Hosted by Sandi Toksvig and Noel Fielding, the episode in question, titled the Great Christmas Bake Off, pitted contestants against each other in baking Icelandic laufabrauð. Though each contestant received written instructions, there were no pictures to show them what the finished product should look like.

Laufabrauð.

Making laufabrauð is no easy feat: not only is the decorating process finicky and time-consuming but so is the frying process. The breads must be fried individually and heat maintained even so that the final result is uniform. That proved a challenge for some of the contestants of the show.

Vísir published a short video excerpt of the episode for curious readers.

Where Can I Purchase a “Leaf-Cutting Tool” for Laufabrauð?

Laufabrauð.

[vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text css=”.vc_custom_1666953288611{margin-bottom: 0px !important;}”]For many Icelanders, making laufabrauð (leaf bread) is an essential part of Christmas preparations. The art of making leaf bread is usually a family undertaking, where several generations gather and take part. Leaf-bread making traditionally requires a laufabrauðsjárn, or a leaf-bread roller, which can be purchased in, among other places, Kokka, Allt í Köku, and Brynja.

Iceland Review recently spoke to the abovementioned vendors and inquired about prices and availability.

Kokka (on Laugavegur 47) offers two types of leaf-bread rollers: a 22mm roller (ISK 18,500) and a finer, 12mm roller (ISK 20,500). According to a sales representative, Kokka currently has a few leaf-bread rollers in stock; however, as many Icelanders begin preparing leaf bread in early December, they “usually go quickly this time of year.”

Allt í köku (on Smiðjuvegur 9 in Kópavogur) offers three types of leaf-bread rollers: a 12mm roller (ISK 20,495), a 22mm roller for (ISK 18,495), and a 22mm roller with a custom-made wooden handle (ISK 23,995). Last year, “all the rollers sold out,” (excepting those with the wooden handles).

It’s interesting to note that most of the rollers that the abovementioned vendors sell are produced by Handverk Haraldar. The company is owned and operated by Haraldur Guðbjartsson who is one of only a few Icelanders who manufacturers hand-made leaf-bread rollers. Haraldur acquired the company, along with the manufacturing equipment, from Ægir Björgvinsson and his wife “Didda” in 2013.

Laufabrauð (leaf-bread) is a traditional kind of Icelandic bread: thin round flat cakes, decorated with leaf-like, geometric patterns, fried briefly in hot fat or oil. They are consumed most often during the Christmas season. Leaf bread originates from northern Iceland but is now eaten throughout the country.

If you’re ordering from abroad, the website Nammi.is offers shipping.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][/vc_column][/vc_row]