Excellent Icelandic Traditions: Free Meat Soup on the First Day of Winter

Kjötsúpa. Photo by Eygló Svala Arnarsdóttir, via Iceland Review

For years, one of my favorite “holidays” in New York was Free Cone Day at Ben & Jerry’s, and it just so happens that Iceland has a similar and possibly more awesome version: Free Meat Soup Day!

Unfortunately, I missed the memo on this awesome warming holiday, and therefore did not get free meat soup myself. But, armed with this knowledge for next year, I think it is worth sharing with you all the same. Per an article, “Winter Welcomed with Meat Soup Day,” in Iceland Review:

Tomorrow, October 27, is the first day of winter. As in the past ten years, it will be celebrated with Meat Soup Day on Skólavörðustígur in downtown Reykjavík, where passersby can enjoy a taste of free kjötsúpa, a classic culinary staple. [Ed. Note: kjötsúpa is, along with kleina, skyr, rhubarb jam, smoked lamb, langoustine, Icelandic butter, and so many other amazing Icelandic foods, totally The Best.]

“For the tenth anniversary we thought we’d be a bit more radical. But the day will be of the same style as usual: live accordion, free soup, merchants opening their doors and everyone having fun,” promises Jóhann [Jónsson, owner of the deli and cheese store Ostabúðin, on Skólavörðustígur].

As in past years, there will be five to six soup stations on Skólavörðustígur, represented by a nearby restaurant or food store, each of which adds a special tweak to the traditional recipe of lamb broth, meat, potatoes and vegetables.

These include 3 Frakkar, whose master chef Úlfar Eysteinsson promises a spicy soup. “There is nothing as dull as bland soup,” he states. “We add Japanese soy sauce, which gives an interesting aftertaste. A little bit of horseradish doesn’t hurt either.”

The Meat Soup Day starts at 2 pm, and ritually, the first pot will be carried into Hegningarhúsið, the prison that stands on Skólavörðustígur.

The initiative is hugely appreciated by wardens and inmates alike. “There must be a reason for the prison always being full at this time,” jokes Jóhann. “They’re nice neighbors; one can’t complain.”

Free soup! Live accordion! General Merry-making! Next year, Iceland. Next year!

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