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How to Plan a Þorrablót


If you love fermented shark, lamb heads, and pickled ram’s testicles, this is the time to travel to Iceland! Þorri is one of the months in the Old Norse calendar, roughly equivalent to modern day February. It’s celebrated with “Þorrablót” (pronunciation: thaw-rah-blow-t), during which people gather and eat all the weird traditional foods of Iceland. Yummy! It’s a tradition similar to the Scottish Burns Night, a festival to celebrate Icelandic heritage.

If you want to make friends in Iceland, host a þorrablót party! But how do you organise one, exactly?

Know the basics

The name Þorri is derived from either the Norwegian king Þorri Snærsson, the god Þor, or a supernatural winter spirit. Þorrablót was originally a midwinter sacrificial ritual, dedicated to worshipping the pagan gods Oðin, Þor, Freyja and their buddies. The sacrifice was meant to appease the gods and ensure the return of summer.

With the adoption of Christianity in late 10th century, the tradition was put to an end. But in the 19th century, when Icelanders gained freedom of religion, it was revived, and it has been celebrated ever since. Today, families, sports teams, choirs, and small-town communities gather to eat some of the most unappetising foods imaginable, wash it all down with Brennivín, also known as Black Death, and party the night away, with songs, games, storytelling and dancing until the early hours. And good to know: people usually dress up real fancy for the occasion!

Þorramatur Sheep Head

Host a dinner party

I bet you want to know more about those Þorrablót “delicacies”! People eat the food Icelanders used to eat before they had refrigerators. Food had to be preserved somehow, and the dominant methods were pickling, salting, drying and smoking. Some snacks are tasty, some are awful, and almost all of them will seem very strange to those unfamiliar with them.

If you offer testicles, sheep eyes, blood sausage, wind-dried fish, ram’s testicles, blood pudding and seal flippers (difficult to find these days), you can be sure to get happy guests. Serve a shot of cold Brennivín or a local Þorri beer with the food for the ultimate taste experience.


Organise a performance

Step into the spotlight! After dinner there is time for singing traditional songs, playing group games and storytelling to get the community spirit going. It’s common to organise stage performances, concerts, speeches and poem recitals. You could also spice up the evening with a comedy show! Make as many smart jokes as you can about embarrassing moments, political gaffes and volcanic eruptions!


Party the night away

Party on! Your guests will drink to the gods and propose (too many) toasts to celebrate Iceland and important Icelanders. And as the night progresses, the toasts get better! Also, this is the time when people start dancing. It’s an interesting combination of Icelandic folk dancing, couple dancing and uncontrolled drunken moves, which might be painful to watch.


And the next day…

Well, let’s not think too much about the next day. Take at least one day to sleep it all off. But lucky you. You probably made friends for life!


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