What makes Icelanders so unique?

6. November 2018

Fun, strange and wired facts about Icelanders. Who are these people from Iceland?

What makes Icelanders so unique? 
Being a population of 350,000 on a remote North Atlantic island, Icelanders have developed a few quirks. A lot of these quirks revolve around the Icelandic language itself but also local folklore and the curious international relations Iceland has held over the centuries. 
 
Icelandic Language: The Viking tongue
The Icelandic language is the root of all other Scandinavian languages as it is essentially the Old Norse that Norwegian settlers were speaking when they arrived in Iceland in the 10th century. Language is a pretty stringent factor when it comes to most Icelandic traditions. There is even a name committee that is established to make sure that Icelanders are given names that can adjust to Icelandic grammar cases. 
 
Another Icelandic tradition that is quite unusual is the continued use of a patronymic naming system. In most cases, children are named after their father with the added suffix of –dottir or –son, indicating that they are the daughter or son of their father. However, some choose to take the first name of the mother, and in some cases, both parents. There are family names that are passed down in the case of a family adopting a placename, as in the Icelandic author, Halldor Laxness, whose family were from Laxness farm. 
 
Christmas Traditions: The 13 Yule Lads
Other traditions that make Icelanders particularly unique revolve around holidays. Christmas time in Iceland would not be the same without the looming figure of the Christmas Cat, or Jólakötturinn, and his owners. As per tradition, if a child doesn’t receive a new item of clothing for Christmas, then he or she will be eaten by this gruesome cat. The cat lives with Grýla, a giantess who lives in the mountain along with thirteen elves, the Yule Lads. The elves come one by one from the mountain thirteen days before Christmas and leave one by one afterwards. According to Icelandic folklore, their names are taken after the particular kind of havoc each one makes, from Bowl-Licker to Pot-Scraper, Skyr-Gobbler and Candle-Stealer, although these vary depending on location. More about those strange Yule Lads.
 
“Þetta reddast”: It will all work out 
The unofficial national slogan of Iceland is Þetta Reddast. Perhaps it is the experience of centuries of colonial rule by Denmark as well as the harsh weather conditions that makes this slogan so fitting as it could be translated as: it will all work out. It also implies a live-for-the-moment stance that assuages dissapointments and difficult situations. It is used in Iceland for anything from daily affairs to larger life events that implies using your time and energy on a productive way of fixing the problem rather than on lamenting. The Zen-like stance, very much reflected in the weather which is unpredictable, reflects the attitude that there is much out of our control anyways. 
 
 

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