If you are reading this you are probably curious to know just why Icelanders would eat crazy food like fermented shark, sheep's face and sour ram's testicles, and we don’t blame you for asking!

Let us introduce you to our charming and unique mid-winter food festival, Þorri.

Where we come together to eat, drink and celebrate old traditions!

Guðný Ljósbrá (Good-knee)
Guðný Ljósbrá (Good-knee)
Last updated: February 08, 2023

It all starts with the tradition of our mid-winter festival, Þorri, one of our oldest traditions and cultural events.

Its origin is rooted in the old Norse tradition of preserving and celebrating that you have made it half way through the harsh writer and can now start looking forward to the arrival of spring, yay! When exactly we started celebrating Þorrinn is hard to say, but remains of this pagan custom can be found in scriptures written around the year 1300. So it’s been a while!

Þorri starts on Bóndadagurinn or “mans day” which is always in the thirteenth week of winter, on a Friday. On that day men would wake up and welcome Þorrinn and start planning the celebrations with people from their own and nearby villages. The festival then ends on Konudagurinn or “womans day” on the Sunday of the eighteenth winter week. This time is the harshest part of winter so daylight is scarce and outside conditions can be icy and unkind, so people would rely on their preserved food rations… you see where this is going.

A Þorrablót around the 1950's

The celebrations hosted back then and today are called Þorrablót (blót refers to a sacrificial feast in honour of a pagan god). There you would meet up with friends and family and indulge in traditional Icelandic food and drinks (a lot of them) while listening to Icelandic music and old sagas.

Like we have covered this was in the middle of winter so often or not the only food they had available was preserved food of some type. This would include soured, fermented and well, rotten, food... how yummy. To swallow this all down they would always have beer and shots of Brennivín (black death), so obviously this always resulted in a great time.

A Þorrablót from the early 2000's

Some of the most popular traditional Icelandic foods to have at a Þorrablót includes:

  • Svið (sheepshead)
  • Sviðasulta, sour or not soured (sheepshead jelly, soured or not).
  • Kæstur hákarl (fermented or rotten shark)
  • Lifrarpylsa (sheep's liver sausage)
  • Blóðmör (sheep's blood pudding)
  • Súrsaðir hrútspungar (sour ram's testicles)
  • Súr lundabaggi (sour sheep colon)
  • Hangikjöt á flatköku (smoked lamb meat on flatbread)
  • Harðfiskur (dried fish)
  • Rúgbrauð (rye bread)

And I know, by this time into the blog your mouth is watering and you have already typed into google "how to make sour rams testicles at home".. no?

We hosted our very own Wake Up Reykjavík Þorrablót were we ate some of these delicacies, and you can see how well that wen't on your youtube page here.

To this day Þorri is celebrated here in Iceland, and I think it is a great way for us to get back in touch with older traditions and celebrate them. With all the luxurious delicious Icelandic food we have today, it is good to think back to our Icelandic ancestors who lived here in the pagan times. I imagine them trying to survive in their turf houses, coping through the winter times with nothing more than a fireplace and maybe a couple of sheep to keep warm. I am sure they had no problem with stuffing down fermented shark and sheep faces with a smile on their faces.

It doesn't matter if you are an Icelander or a traveller visiting the country, if you are here during that time I would highly recommend that you try some of this traditional food and host your own little Þorrablót, it is a lot of fun and will for sure be one of the most unique meals you have ever had.

On our food walk, The Reykjavík Food Walk we have a little taste of old traditions on every tour all year round! So if you join us for that, you are now prepared!