Monday, December 15, 2014

An Iceland Christmas

Sorry, it's another tiresome rerun.  But, hey, GOOD NEWS!  It's from 2012.  That means that most of you are new here and haven't read this.  For those of you who have been around a while (I'm talking to you, Pat Hatt) first let me say, you poor bastards.  Second, it may look familiar.  If so, you may want to take a few shots of egg nog.  Make sure you put whiskey in it, though, because a few snorts make anything look better.  At least that's what Mrs. Penwasser says about me before our weekly maritals.

    For those of you who haven’t paid attention (or who’ve visited Penwasser Place solely for the kick-ass pictures), my family and I lived at the U.S. Navy air station in Keflavik, Iceland from 2003-2004.
"This whole pillaging Europe thing has gotten boring. Whaddya say we go over to what'll be called Canada and kick some Indian ass? Plus, it'll really piss off those Columbus groupies."
    The base, opened during World War II, has since shut down and returned to the Icelandic government.  I suppose it was felt the money to keep it operating could be better spent elsewhere.  After all, the threat of Viking raids has pretty much petered out. 
Permits!?  Permits are for pussies.
And Americans.

    During the time we were there, we experienced a rich culture.  From ogling New Year’s fireworks displays which were truly “shock and awe” to lolling about geothermal spas in sub-freezing temperatures, we immersed ourselves in all that was Icelandic.

    Except for that holiday where they ate rotted sheep heads.  We gave that one a pass.
Sorta makes you appreciate
fruitcake a little more, huh?
    One of our favorite traditions happened at Christmas.  Readily acknowledging Santa Claus as the favorite of children worldwide, Icelanders add their own unique way of celebrating the run-up to December 25th.  For the thirteen nights prior to Christmas morning, legend has it that they are visited by the Yule Lads.
Disappointed he didn't get 
that Butt Sniffer gig
It's been a while so...
Barney Frank

Former Massachusetts Congressman.
Present Massachusetts homosexual.
Not that there's anything wrong with that.
But...imagine this dude naked.
    From Sheep Worrier to Candle Beggar, each Lad has his own specific identity (luckily, Butt Sniffer didn’t pass the audition).  Never malicious, they play tricks on each household, whether by drinking all the milk, or rearranging the furniture.  They also leave presents in children’s shoes, unless they’d been naughty that year.  In that case, they leave potatoes.
Al-Qaeda playtoy
Seriously, if I was that sheep,
I'd be worried, too.
  Enchanted by this charming bit of folklore, my wife and I played up the fable of the Yule Lads to our two children.  As December 12th approached, we told them that Stekkjarstaur, the Sheep Worrier, would surely pay a visit that night.  To be ready, they needed to place one of their shoes on their windowsills so that he could leave them a present.
    Or a potato, I kidded my son.
    Several hours after the sun went down and the kids had gone to bed, my wife and I set the stage for the first of the Yule Lads’ visits.  Since the military didn’t allow us to transfer our sheep from the States, we opted for the modern tradition of placing empty milk cartons in the fridge.
    Certain the kids were asleep, we stole into their rooms to place small presents in their shoes.

To be continued (really, what did you expect?  This has gone on long enough)...


  1. Ahh I remember this but I don't remember the thrilling conclusion. The Icelandic Christmas sounds pretty awesome. They actually have sheep worriers in their folklore. Probably borrowed it from the Welsh. Or a Welshman visited one Christmas and found his way into their folklore.

    1. It is certainly possible some elements were borrowed from the Welsh. It really is a charming little custom.

  2. lol I guess I'm just a sucker for punishment. Wasn't it longer last year? did you split it up even more to get more mileage out of it? lol Still love the idea of hiding presents in shoes. Maybe that is why some cats and dogs relieve themselves in shoes.

    1. It was the same size, although Part II is noticeably shorter. I did that to break things up a bit, because a lot of reading can get tedious in a blog. Take a look at when I first started Penwasser Place in 2009. Good grief, I blathered on and on.

  3. Since it was the Sheep Worrier, did the kids get a ball of yarn?

  4. Rotted sheep heads?!?!? Excuse me while I PUKE! love the post

    1. They also had a "holiday" devoted to rotted shark heads. I guess refrigeration wasn't a big part of the Viking culture.

  5. I can only imagine what happened next. Hopefully I won't need to wait long for the conclusion.

  6. Our boy Lollipop- the butt sniffer gig. Hee hee! And no, not going after THAT mental image, sorry.

  7. Rotted sheep heads sound so appetizing. Maybe I'll put that on my Christmas menu.

  8. Iceland and Greenland have pretty much zero chance of being invaded

  9. It's new to me. You have my permission to continue.


  10. I still don't trust the Vikings...they wear horns on their heads and discovered North America without ever bragging about it. Just watch...they'll be back.

  11. You mean your children slept soundly after you told them a sheep molester was going to visit them? You must train them good in the navy. Most family pets are butt sniffers so that's no cause for concern - as long as they only sniff.

  12. I can't believe this post was before my time!! I am so excited about the thrilling conclusion!

    And as a total aside... one of the guys in Youngest's Scout Troop also spent years off and on at the US air force base in Iceland. He said it was one of the most beautiful places he's ever been... wouldn't that be a small world if you were there at the same time?

    1. I was there from June 2003 until January 2005 (when they started shutting the whole enchilada-or should I say rotted sheep's head?-down). My daughter was in the Keflavik Girl Scout troop there. My son? He was way too cool to join the Scouts. Bummer. I loved the Scouts and was one until I was 17.
      Iceland had a stark beauty. I will always treasure my time there.

  13. It may have been a rerun but I don't remember reading it before so either I haven't or I am getting forgetful

  14. Great idea making this one a two parter! I'll be counting sheep until the exciting conclusion!