Friday, 19 December 2014

Bjúgnakrækir - Icelandic Yule Lads (December 20th)

In contrast with Skyrgámur‘s habit of eating tons of healthy skyr, Bjúgnakrækir (Sausage Swiper), the Yule Lad arriving on the 20th night of December, prefers his snacks high in cholesterol. Nobody knows exactly what his preference is: rumors say he will ravenously eat all kinds of sausages, without any exception. His appetite can make him reckless sometimes.

Smoked sausages are a brilliant way to preserve meat in a place like Berk (or most of the North Atlantic Islands) where it may snow and hail and rain locusts (or whatever Hiccup dreams up in his snarkfest), but it rarely gets cold enough to freeze food. So smoking, pickling, drying, curing are all ways to keep food stashed through the winter.

Bjúgnakrækir - Icelandic Yule Lads (December 20th)

The rafters are an ideal place to store the lamb meat and fish meat sausages once they are prepared. Then the cook just snags down dinner from the ceiling and dumps it in a pot to boil. Sometimes you have to climb a bit to get dinner. At the Haddock household it´s a good thing there is a tall chieftain and a willing Night Fury to help with this. And a few cleverly designed long hooks for those days when the chief dragon tamer/chef does not want dragon drool on the sausages.

Until December 20, of course. Then Bjúgnakrækir makes his way into the farms and the village, ready to snatch some sausages. It's a good thing he's an acrobat so he can climb WAAAY up into those rafters and reach for the prize. He just, unfortunately, is a leeetle bit afraid of heights. But singing usually helps him deal with the situation, and also keeps the watch dragon fast asleep.

So, if you are planning to make sausage stuffing or simply hot dogs between Dec 20 and Jan 2, keep 'em hidden. This guy's on the prowl!

Bjúgnakrækir - Icelandic Yule Lads (December 20th)

Luckily for this chap, there’s not much need for recklessness in recent times: in Reykjavík you can find near the harbor the famous Bæjarins beztu pylsur (Best hot dog in town in English) stand, described by many satisfied customers as one of the best in the world. I’m pretty sure Bjúgnakrækir knows very well and he visits the stand regularly during his annual excursions.

Icelandic

Níundi var Bjúgnakrækir,
brögðóttur og snar.
Hann hentist upp í rjáfrin
og hnuplaði þar.

Á eldhúsbita sat hann
í sóti og reyk
og át þar hangið bjúga,
sem engan sveik.

English

Ninth was Sausage Snatcher
Artful and quick.
He hied up to the rafters
And snatched a little there.

On a kitchen beam he sat
In smoke and soot
And ate a smoked sausage,
That was very good.

Berglind, Iceland24
December 2014

Thursday, 18 December 2014

Skyrgámur - Icelandic Yule Lads (December 19th)

This is the day for Skyrgámur, the Skyr Gobbler.

Skyr (or farköst) is a type of cheese, though it more resembles a very thick yogurt. The Greek yogurt that has become so popular lately resembles it, but not exactly. Skyr tastes tangy, thick and rich, yet it actually is low fat.

Like yogurt, you need to use a "starter" culture from a previous batch of skyr. Milk with all of the cream skimmed out is mixed with buttermilk, rennet and a bit of older skyr culture and brought to a boil. It is allowed to cool down slowly so the rennet can "work its magic." A curd and whey has been created. The mixture is strained through something like cheese cloth until all the whey has dripped out. (The whey is saved as a preservative for meats). The remaining "curds" are skyr.

Skyrgámur - Icelandic Yule Lads (December 19th)

Skyrgámur is not the brightest Yule Lad in the litter, and after a full year of doing other things (he is into collecting snow in the winter and dew drops in the summer and his collection keeps getting stolen by someone mysterious), he often forgets exactly how to do his job. Eat it, play with it, throw it at someone, decorate it? His Terrible Terror friend is just as forgetful but still 100% of a prankster. Deadly combination.

They call him stupid, but apart from his lack of temperance Skyrgámur is not that stupid. For those who are wondering, skyr is a low-fat and very high in proteins dairy product, similar to strained yogurt, but much healthier. Thanks to its components, skyr’s nutritional benefits are quite remarkable.

So if you don't want to share any of your cultural experiences with Skyrgámur, hide your yogurt, skyr, buttermilk, filmjölk, kefir and sour cream from sight between Dec 19 and Jan 1.

Icelandic

Skyrgámur, sá áttundi,
var skelfilegt naut.
Hann hlemminn o'n af sánum
með hnefanum braut.

Svo hámaði hann í sig
og yfir matnum gein,
unz stóð hann á blístri
og stundi og hrein.

English

Skyr Gobbler, the eighth one,
Was a terrible bull.
The lid off the skyr tub
With his fist he smashed.

Then he gobbled up
As much as he could,
Till he was close to bursting
And moaned and grunted.

Berglind, Iceland24
December 2014

Wednesday, 17 December 2014

Hurðaskellir - Icelandic Yule Lads (December 18th)

Hurðaskellir (Door Slammer) is a peculiar Yule Lad and much more of a prankster than most of his brothers. He doesn’t care much for food, but he’s got the obsessive addiction of door-slamming. No door is safe when this crazy rascal is around. The louder the noise, the better – and just to be sure, better repeating the trick more than once in a row: Hurðaskellir’s ego is quite troublesome.

We all know people with the annoying tendency of being very noisy when they close doors, but the problem with Hurðaskellir is that he likes to do that at night. I suggest that you don’t forget to lock any single door in your house, especially if you’re living with somebody with severe heart conditions…
Hurðaskellir - Icelandic Yule Lads (December 18th)

What's worse is that Hurðaskellir seems to have a fan club with a lot of children in it, because they just LOVE to slam doors and say they are imitating their favorite hero.

Hurðaskellir is going to harass your doors on 18 December.

Icelandic

Sjöundi var Hurðaskellir,
- sá var nokkuð klúr,
ef fólkið vildi í rökkrinu
fá sér væran dúr.

Hann var ekki sérlega
hnugginn yfir því,
þó harkalega marraði
hjörunum í.

English

Seventh was Door Slammer,
- He was a little brash.
When people in the dark
Wanted to nap.

He was not one bit
Sorry for that,
If loud, creaking noises
Came from the hinges.

Berglind, Iceland24
December 2014

Tuesday, 16 December 2014

Askasleikir - Icelandic Yule Lads (December 17th)

Askasleikir (Bowl Licker) is the 6th in the Yule Lads gang to visit during the Christmas period. He arrives on the 17th of December. I don’t want to make it sound like I am partial - because in fact I am not - but I think Askasleikir is very sly. At least, more than the majority of his brothers.

In the old times, especially in farmhouses, Icelanders used to eat from lidded bowls sitting on their beds. The lidded bowls prevented the food from getting cold and were usually placed on the floor or under the bed in between bites.
Askasleikir - Icelandic Yule Lads (December 17th)
Askasleikir specialized in hiding under furniture waiting for these moments and refined his art over the years. When something edible is placed on the floor, he stretches his arms and steals it.

I suspect it may be this gentleman’s fault that children are so afraid of monsters hiding under the bed at night.

Icelandic

Sá sjötti, Askasleikir,
var alveg dæmalaus.
-Hann fram undan rúmunum
rak sinn ljóta haus.

Þegar fólkið setti askana
fyrir kött og hund,
hann slunginn var að ná þeim
og sleikja á ýmsa lund.

English

The sixth, Bowl Licker,
Was without a peer.
-From under the beds, he
Pushed his ugly head.

When the bowls were placed
In front of cat and dog,
He cunningly snatched them
And licked till he was full.

Berglind, Iceland24
December 2014

Monday, 15 December 2014

Pottaskefill - Icelandic Yule Lads (December 16th)

It's Pottaskefill, the pot licker. Most of us, admit it, are not fond of leftovers (spam hash, anybody?). This Yule Lad lives for them! He patiently waits until households are finished with their cooking. Then he sneaks in and demolishes the leftovers in the pot with lightning speed.

His job is easy to do with the normal Viking household, but the Vikings on Berk are quite well grown, and the chances of leftovers are not great.

Pottaskefill - Icelandic Yule Lads (December 16th)

But Pottaskefill has picked up a few tricks over the years to guarantee he gets leftovers. Vikings had a notorious love of seasoning, gaining new tastes as they traveled on trading missions and their raid- oops, I mean, acquiring new possessions without paying for them. A wealthier household might have spices such as cumin, pepper, saffron, ginger, cardamom, cloves, nutmeg, mace, cinnamon, anise-seed, and bay leaves. In fact, Scandinavia is one of the few regions outside of South Asia that uses cardamom as a staple spice.

Anyway, like a Viking trader, Pottaskefill has collected his own formidable armada of seasonings from his visits. He has strung them onto a bandolier like vest that he wears when he visits Berk. And he uses them liberally and inappropriately (lots of salt in the deserts, honey and cinnamon in the meat soup, etc.). And lots and lots and lots of hot peppers.

Top it off with a few extra logs to insure the fire will burn the food, and Pottaskefill has guaranteed leftovers! It's a good thing he has developed a cast iron stomach over the years. Some of the other Yule Lads and Grýla have noticed, actually, that he no longer can eat food if it tastes good.

Icelandic

Sá fimmti, Pottaskefill,
var skrítið kuldastrá.
- Þegar börnin fengu skófir
hann barð dyrnar á.

Þau ruku' upp, til að gá að
hvort gestur væri á ferð.
Þá flýtti 'ann sér að pottinum
og fékk sér góðan verð.

English

The fifth, Pot Licker,
Was a weird cool lad.
As the children received scrapings,
He knocked at the door.

They rushed off to see
If a guest was dropping in.
Then he hurried to the pot,
And had a filling meal.

Berglind, Iceland24
December 2013