Thursday, December 27, 2007

Faroese Costume

I hope everyone had a wonderful Christmas. We have had a great time visiting with family and friends. One of my goals is to sometime in the future spend Christmas in the Faroe Islands. I have never been there during the winter and would love to experience the Faroe Islands during this time of year. Jenny has some wonderful pictures of what it is like during this time of year. There are times when sun will not come above the mountains.

Anyway what I wanted to share with you today was the Faroese Costume or Traditional Dress. I came across of a photo of my sister and I in the traditional dress which brought all of this up.

OK I know.... "How cute."

The traditional dress is something that the Faroese take great pride in. They will where it during holidays, weddings, graduations and other special occasions.

Now the headgear for the men will be worn alone without the costume.

Monday, December 17, 2007

A Couple Picture of Nólsoy

It is Christmas time and things have been busy so I thought I would take the easy way out and post a couple pictures. Now I have to give a lot of credit again Jenny. She took them and posted them on her site but they were such good pictures of Nólsoy that I had to post them myself.

I hope everyone is having a GREAT Christmas season.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Faroese Christmas - Gleðilig Jól

Well it is Christmas time again. (And as usual we are behind on getting things ready.) But I thought I would share some of the traditions that I grew up with. Now while I was looking for images and additional information I found out that many of the traditions that I thought were exclusively Faroese are celebrated throughout Scandinavia. This may be partially because we all share common roots. As far as for the Faroe Islands they were settled in the 9th century by Vikings mainly from common day Norway. The Faroe Islands were under Norwegian rule up until around 1380 when Norway entered the Kalmar Union with Denmark which evolved into Denmark taking complete rule. So as you can see the Faroe Islands has a lot of influence from other Scandinavian countries. And since the Faroe Islands is still a part of the Danish Kingdom, Denmark has a large influence on Faroese culture. I know for my mom she was 15 or so until they started teaching Faroese in the schools. (She always said that she could read Danish better then Faroese.) Another fact is the Church of the Faroe Islands didn't become independent of Denmark until this year. I guess what I am trying to say is that many of the traditions that I grew up with are shared by many Scandinavian countries.

The beginning of the Christmas season always started in our house with the Advent Calendar. I do not remember a Christmas without one. If you have never had one or know what they are, they are countdown calendar. Starting on the 1st of December we would open a window that would reveal an image or message about Christmas. The calendar would countdown to Christmas Eve. The days quite often would be hidden within an image of Christmas so it was always a game with us kids to see who could find todays window before the other. Today many of the windows are filled with candy. This was always something that as kids we looked forward to. Today we have passed this on to our kids but also to our nieces and nephews. It something that kids of all ages look forward to.

Some of decorations are unique to Scandinavia. One of them is the Julnisse. They are mischievous elves that tradition says needs to be bribed with Rice Pudding so they wouldn't be up to their tricks on Christmas Eve. So one of the things that many do is decorate their house with paper cutouts of the Julnisse. It was one of those things as a kids we loved to do because we could put them anywhere in the house. So they would hang on shelves, plants or any other place we could get them to stay. It wouldn't be Christmas with out those little guys around the house.

Now for the Rice Pudding that was mentioned. This is a traditional Christmas treat. This was always eaten on Christmas Eve or when we had guest over at this time of the year. The trick to this was that there was always an ONE almond put in the pudding and who ever ended up with the almond would get a little prize. Now mind you, you were never suppose to say anything until everyone had finished their helping of pudding.

A BIG part of Christmas like with most cultures these days is the Christmas tree. Now many things are the same, the lights, the garland, the angel on the top but there were a few touches that we always added that made it different and always made our trees stand out from others. We would put baskets on our tree. We had many different kinds but the most popular was the red and white heart baskets. My mother told us that when she was growing up that the baskets would be filled with candy and that when people would come over to visit that as they left the kids would get to take one of the baskets off the tree as a parting gift. Being in America we never had enough baskets to give away so that tradition was never carried over. The other item that would always be put on the tree were the flags. They are a string of flags that would go from the top to the bottom. For most of my life they were Danish flags but then the Faroe Islands started making ones with the Faroese Flag on them. I was even able to get some with the United States flag on them. So today my tree has an array of Danish, Faroese and United States flags on them. These items are a part of Christmas that I couldn't live without. If I have nothing else on my tree, I need to have the baskets and the flags.

Now that I have explained a little of the traditions that go on in a Faroese American Christmas I better finish this and get myself to bed so that I can get some sleep and finish the decorating of our house. I still need to get a tree and with a new puppy in the house I am not sure how we are going to keep her from eating the tree and all its decorations. If any of you have any suggestion pleases let me know.

Saturday, December 8, 2007

27 Years and We Still

I know this has nothing to with the Faroe Islands but in some way it has everything to do with. We are all in this world together.

It was 27 years ago that John Lennon was shot and this Christmas his song "War is Over" is more appropriate then at any other time.

When will this madness end.

I pray that one day his message will come true.

Images of the Faroe Islands

From a suggestion I thought I would post some images of one the most beautiful places on the earth.

Pictures courtesy of G. Norðoy. Please check out his Flickr site.

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Am I doing OK??

Image from G. Norðoy on Flickr of Klaksvik. Please check out his other pictures.

I have written 15 postings since starting this blog. It has been good for me to write things down and let everyone know about the Faroe Islands. I hope that everyone that reads my blog are enjoying it too.

I understand that it takes a while for the word to get around about a blog and I know I have had some readers. But what I don't know is "Am I doing OK?" I feel somewhat strange about this but I would love to hear your comments. Are the topics interesting? Is there something that you are interested in?

Let me me know what you think. Leave a comment.


Sunday, December 2, 2007

Grindadráp - Whale Hunt


I understand that this is a controversial topic but this is one of my earliest and best memories as a child. I was five years old and would have been one of these small kids you see in this picture.

I didn't think anything of it at the time. It was just a part of being Faroese. My mother even took a picture of me standing on one of the whales. (I wish I had that picture today) It was also the day I got my first knife. The funny thing about this was that it was a regular fishing knife with a red handle and a black plastic sleeve and my mother was afraid that I would hurt myself. Now she didn't what to upset me or my uncle who gave it to me so she made a swap. She took the fishing knife and saved it for me and gave me a folding knife under the condition that I did not open the knife. I still have the knife today and is one of the best knifes I own. Now I carried this on to both of my boys a gave them a knife when they were 5 years old.

There is a Faroese proverb:
Knívleysur maður er lívleysur - The knifeless man is a lifeless man.
Knifes are an essential part of Faroese life. It is used in every facet of everyday living.

Now I understand that images of whales being rounded up to shore and being killed can be hard to stomach for some people but for most Americans we believe that all the meat just shows up at the supermarket. We never think of the process it takes to get that a steak, chicken or pork chop to that supermarket. Slaughter houses are not pretty and are no more humane then what the Faroese do in a whale hunt. It is probably more humane. A whale is unconscious within seconds of the first cut being made, and dead usually in well under a minute. The image that seems to stick in peoples minds is the bays being full of blood but let me remind you that slaughter houses have the same situation and they just wash it down the drain. We never see the amount of blood that is being washed away. I think for people to get over these images it might do them well to take a look at images of a slaughter house.

Now I looking at these images how can anyone say that this is better for the animals then the Grindadráp.

Now I understand that a lot of people believe that the pilot whales are endangered but this is just not true. The amount of pilot whales in the North Atlantic is almost 800,000. The Faroese have also been keeping records of their catch as far back as 1584 and unbroken records that started in 1709. The average annual catch by the Faroese for the past 300 years has been around 850 pilot whales. This catch is a sustainable amount and in no way endangers these whales. The Faroese government keeps a close watch on all of the catches.

Check out their website for information. Whales and Whaling in the Faroe Islands

Another aspect of the whaling is that the whales are only hunted if the if they come close to the islands. They never go out of the inlets of the islands to hunt the pilot whales. They are also never sold. The whales are divided amongst everyone of the village that catches them.

Now I understand that many may think why do the Faroese need to do this. That they can get their meat from other sources. Well the pilot whale is a staple of meat for the Faroe Islands. The islands are not suited for most grazing animals. Now sheep are plenty but as far as cattle it can not be done. So most all of the beef on the islands are imported. The Faroe Islands' main source of food for over a thousand years has come from the sea and the pilot whale is just a part of it.

Now there have been many that have tried to stop the Grindadráp but this is ingrained into the Faroese culture as fishing. It is a part of their tradition and their lives. It is time that everyone in the village participates. It is a part of their identity. It is something that will not change.

The last thing I would like to share is what many people will ask and that is how does it taste? Well a whale is a mammal. It would be similar to many different mammals. It is not like beef or deer but it has a gaming taste and is dark in color. Now I have never liked the taste of the blubber but this is main part of the whale that is also eaten. There is not much of the whale that is wasted.

The first and last image I would like to give credit to Jan Egil Kristiansen. Check out some of his photos. He has a lot of GREAT photos of the Faroe Islands.

I would also like for you to also do some of your own reading on this topic. The more you know the more you understand.

Whales and Whaling in the Faroe Islands
Kate Sandersen General Secretary of NAMMCO
High North Alliance