Well, December has begun and we’re all in full Christmas-mode here in Iceland. That is, when those of us who are at university aren’t studying for exams (I know, poor us).
Also, there was a magical snow storm last week, which added to the general atmosphere:
But in between the snow-storming, the studying, and the examing, we’ve managed to get in a lot of seasonal candle-burning, cookie-baking, and Christmas music-listening.
When I say that we’ve been listening to a lot of Christmas music, I specifically mean that we’ve been listening to a lot of the Jólgestir (‘Christmas guests’) albums put out by Björgvin Halldórsson, Iceland’s Forever Master of Christmas Ceremonies. If you don’t know about Bo, you can read up on him and his Christmas tunes—many of which are Christmas-ized Italian pop songs, for the record—here. It’s a fun read and will give you some context for the man behind the world’s most epic and epically cheesey (by which I mean wonderful) Christmas songs.
I’m going to try and post at least one Jólagestir tune here each week leading up to Christmas, just so you, too, can share in the fun. (Note that a lot of these songs aren’t Bo himself, or are duets with Bo—and sometimes, his daughter.) But I encourage you to do some googling, too, as his songs are great, great fun.
I was going to start with “Ég kalla nafnið þitt” (‘I call your name’) which is a not terribly Christmasy, but delightfully disco-y song which is featured on several of these Christmas albums. Unfortunately, I can’t find a YouTube video of it (Internet: fail!), and I don’t have the means of uploading my own audio here. But you can listen to a clip here, if you like…number 39.)
Instead, we’ll start with my next favorite Icelandic Christmas song: “Ef ég nenni,” or, roughly, ‘If I feel like it,’ or ‘If I can be bothered.’ (Already a good start, eh?) The lyrics, as far as I can tell, are about a guy who acts as though he can’t be bothered to show his lady love a bit of affection around the holidays, but really, it’s just that he doesn’t have any money to buy her a present. (It all works out in the end.)
It just so happens that this song, performed by Helgi Björnsson, was just declared to be the Best Icelandic Christmas Song by Vísir. (The article has YouTube videos for all the songs on the list, which you might also enjoy.)
“People either love it, or they hate it,” wrote one voter. (Forgive the rough translation.) “Helgi’s wistful performance appeals to me and I am pathologically codependent on this idle and impoverished man who the text is about.”
“I love Helgi Björns who doesn’t have the means, but wants to give his love everything!” says another.
“The melody and the singing impart so much meaning that the song comes alive, even if the text is a bit weird,” says someone else. “There’s a tug at my heartstrings every time that I hear the first notes and drumbeats.”
So there you have it. Merry Christmas, if I (or you) feel like it.