Wednesday, April 9, 2014

First day of summer - revisited

So this is what I was pondering three years ago around this same time.
First Day of Summer
Tomorrow is the first day of summer here in Iceland, a day so revered that it is a national holiday. Come to think about it, it might actually be the other way around, it is probably revered because it is a day off. Unfortunately this year around it coincides with another public holiday, namely Skírdagur or Maundy Thursday – the day of the last supper. A two for one in the worst possible sense. Please note that I have to take the foreign ministry‘s word for the English translation of this religious holiday as I got it off a list of official translations, I have never heard this term before and cannot comment on the meaning of Maundy. Sounds like something depressing.

Today I tried to get to the bottom of why we chose such a strange day to mark the first day of summer. It is always celebrated on the first Thursday following the 18th of April, when it is still miserable outside and spring has even yet to arrive. Apparently in the old times Iceland only had two seasons – winter and summer and the first day of summer was decided to coincide with the first day of month Harpa (meaning harp) –the first day of winter landing on the first day of month Gor (Gormánuður) in what we now approximately call October. The translation of Gor is not exactly as nice as for Harpa, it means the half digested stomach contents of slaughtered animals. Why this deserved having a month named after it is beyond me, who knows maybe Maundy means something as absurd.

Other months of yore bear names that are just as strange. Mörsugur is one, translated verbatim it means Fat-sucking. I am really happy my birthday is not the 24th of Fat-sucking month. A further two wexamples are Einmánuður and Tvímánuður, meaning One month and Two month respectively, they do not follow each other and no one knows what these numbers refer to.

So we had some hail today, then some sun and now lots of wind. Sample weather as it is called here. If it freezes during the night, supposedly we are in for a good summer according to old wisdom – the freezing together of summer and winter. The late evening has all the makings of exactly this occurence so things are looking good up here in the north.

It is however a bit worrying that no one has really been able to say with any certainity what counted as a „good“ summer to our forfathers here. Considering what they considered appropriate names for months it could be anything.

Yrsa - Wednesday


  1. Well I can add that that great blog that Maundy Thursday is indeed the Thursday before Good Friday and in England it is a special celebration by the Church Of England. The Queen has a special ceremony on that day when she hands out small silver Maundy coins ( and some real cash gifts) to the elderly. I believe, but I might be wrong, that it is a symbolic reflection of Jesus washing the feet of the disciples.
    Loved that photo!

  2. In America, Maunday Thursday is called Holy Thursday among Catholics. In Catholic churches, there is a ceremony of the symbolic washing of the feet to commemorate Christ's washing of beggars' feet. At least that it what used to happen back in the days when I was a believer and a church goer. No one even remotely connected with the government distributes cash to anyone here for any reason anymore, as now we have a group called the Tea Party, many of whom also call themselves devout Christians, but they don't believe in charity.

  3. The Greeks also observe Holy Thursday, and in the Ceremony of the Basin, the Abbot of a monastery, for example, will wash the feet of the monks. As for maundy fat-sucking, or even toesday fat sucking, I have no knowledge on the subject to add.