January 16th is the midwinter festival Thorrablot. The festival is a pagan time to resubmit ones oaths and prayers to the gods for blessing during the coldest and darkest days of winter. The festival is in honor of Thor who beats back the forces of winter and brings about the coming spring. Thorrablot starts with dinner of foods that are actually the smoked/pickled produce of the previous year. It is a Scandinavian tradition with lots of Viking history.
In Icland Thorrablot was abolished during the Christianization of Iceland, but resurrected in the 19th century as a midwinter celebration that continues to be celebrated to this day. The timing for the festival coincides with the month of Thorri, according to the old Icelandic calendar, which begins on the first Friday after January 19th (the 13th week of winter). Origins of the name "Thorri" are unclear but it is most likely derived from Norwegian king Thorri Snærsson, or Thor the God of Thunder in the old Nordic religion.
On this occasion, locals come together to eat, drink and be merry. Customary, the menu consists of unusual culinary delicacies, known as traditional Icelandic food. These will include rotten shark’s meat (hákarl), boiled sheep’s head, (svið) and congealed sheep’s blood wrapped in a ram’s stomach (blóðmör)! This is traditionally washed down with some Brennivin - also known as Black Death – a potent schnapps made from potato and caraway. After the Thorrablot dinner traditional songs, games and story telling are accompanied by dancing and in true Icelandic style continue until the early hours of the morning! If you fail to receive a personal invitation to a family feast, local restaurants will often add Thorrablot colour and taste to their menus.
After the Thorrablot dinner group games, old songs and stories begin. So onn this day, raise a horn, gather family and friends together for a great feast, music and celebration. Give thanks to Thor on this day and celebrate the first half of winter being behind you as the spring warmth draws nearer.