Every year, I escape the city with my husband and family for a few days over the Easter weekend to our country cottage, or sumarhús (literally: “summerhouse”).
I love this time of year in the Icelandic countryside. What I love the most are the evenings and quiet nights when the stars come out of hiding and the winter chill has returned, sometimes with a wind reminiscent of a ghastly whisper.
Since my teens, I have been fortunate enough to have a cottage I can call my own, a cottage to which I can return to at my heart’s content and where I can spend as much time as I please.
I know where to find the board games, blankets and the small collection of literature we like to pull out on a rainy afternoon after soaking in one of the three swimming pools we can choose from in the vicinity.
To me, there is no place as beautiful as our little land in Munaðarnes. Situated in the inlands of Borgarfjörður in west Iceland, the little cottage overlooks the magnificent mountain range of the region, and on a good day, the glacier in the distance.
We also see the narrow highway and silent nights are sometimes disrupted by heavy traffic, especially in summer when the nights are lit up by the midnight sun.
Easter is a busy enough travel weekend, but by the time I make it to my romantic cottage in the country, most people have already settled in their weekend destinations.
The Easter weekend is by far the busiest time of the year for our little cottage, and it is small for a family of two infants, one pre-adolescent child, one post-adolescent mother in her early twenties, my parents, my sister and her tall and sturdy husband, my athletic rugby-playing husband and me, and my seriously fit younger sister.
That’s the whole family. And we somehow manage to fit us all in a cottage less than 50 square meters in size. Well, we have so far at least. If my younger sister and I had two children each, I think we’d be forced to look into the possibility of creating more space.
However, so far we have managed to survive a whole weekend without any major incidents.
Our Easter traditions have changed through the years.
In the beginning, we would wake up and have a healthy breakfast and then pig out on Easter’s eggs all day long.
In the afternoon we’d pull out the braai, as I have come to call a barbeque after my exposure to South African colloquial slang, and grill a delicious Icelandic lamb seasoned by my brother-in-law, who at the mere age of 45 is not only a father to three children but a grandfather too.
However, while we still get up and have a healthy breakfast before breaking up the chocolate eggs, the culinary tradition has changed a little in the past few years.
For my ten year-old niece, the Easter eggs (yes, she gets one from her parents and one from both sets of grandparents) are hidden in the bush surrounding the cottage and she looks until she finds the eggs, or in worst case scenario, her parents are forced to almost tell her where to look.
Her favorite part, of course, is to sit down with the first of the three chocolate eggs and watch the endless cartoons on all television channels while the rest of us sit and chat.
My husband and I tend to sleep in on Easter Sunday so sometimes it is necessary for her to raise the volume to wake us up so she can begin her quest for the eggs and start the munching.
You see, the rule is to break the eggs open together, and that means the lazy childless couple sleeping in the loft needs to get up.
Then we break open the chocolate eggs and munch on them all day, albeit thanks to a migraine I must limit my consumption to moderation.
We spend the rest of the day doing absolutely nothing. Of course, the 15-year-old television tends to make a little too much noise with the kid-friendly programming, but a visit to the pool and a walk is the perfect break from all that chocolate.
For dinner, instead of the usual lamb, we have salmon seasoned by my brother-in-law who is quite the expert chef. The big meal is the night before Easter Sunday.
This year, I will be the one picking the grand dinner of the Easter weekend. I haven’t quite informed my family yet, but I am hoping they will find out once they read today’s column.
You see, Saturday is my 32nd birthday and since I didn’t celebrate my 30th or 20th birthday, I feel my 32nd deserves special attention.
Since I won’t be having a big bash, I’d like to declare a feast of a perfectly seasoned roasted lamb straight off the braai.
Those of us celebrating our birthdays around the Easter weekend often fall victim a bad weather.
Even if the weather has been absolutely fabulous for a month, the Easter weekend is more often than not spoiled by the “last” snowfall of the year, heavy rain or any other weather condition that makes for a miserable day.
As one of the unfortunate weather victims, I realized a long time ago that I could not beat the foul-tempered Icelandic weather gods.
So I’ve come to enjoy cuddling up under a warm duvet with my husband while strong winds blow cold air in from the Atlantic Ocean, casting from side to side the short trees in the little forest where I used to play as a child.
There is something romantic and mysterious about the blowing wind in the dark wintery night. It’s really the perfect setting for a Poe-esque fiction.
On a quiet night, it is a dream come true to place a pillow right underneath the wide-open rooftop window and look at the millions of glittering stars as the wind gently puts the spirit to rest with a heavy dose of cold Nordic breeze, far away from the mundane existence of daily life.
Who knows, maybe the Queen of the Hidden People will come to greet me on my birthday in the middle of the night this year?
Júlíana Björnsdóttir – [email protected]