Thursday, November 25, 2004

November 2004

From the President’s Desk

Thanksgiving was a blast and wishing you a peaceful Christmas…

I’m writing this the day after we put up the Icelandic Christmas tree at the Museum of Science and Industry. We all did a really good job even though Lena and I messed up! You see, we came late and forgot one of the boxes at home… Oh well, everyone was very patient about it and we ended up having fun decorating one of the most beautiful tree at the Christmas Around the World exhibition. I’m sure you agree if you have a change to take a look at it this holiday season and I promise it’ll get you into the Christmas spirit.

As you can see elsewhere in the newsletter we have elected a new board with some new members and some older more experienced. We’re going to have a great year and we have lots of new ideas for the upcoming year: golf outing, Christmas party, different “only for members” Þorrablót, and much more. Make sure you send in your membership fee now so you’ll not miss out on any upcoming events. We’re “cleaning up” the membership list in January but we’ve also lowered the membership fee.

After evaluating last year’s activities two things, in my opinion, are worth highlighting: the Þorrablót where we made a profit and saw a record attendance with the ambassador and his wife, and the continuing discussions about the purpose of our Association. We’ve had lively debates about the purpose of the organization where questions like ‘do we exist for the members’? ‘Are we to promote Iceland’? ‘Are our events for people other than members who maybe have no connection to Iceland’? And many more are discussed. We have yet to redefine whom we are but we are getting there. If you’d like to take part in this identity process please voice your opinion as soon as possible in the newsletter and in our meetings, which are open to all members.

That’s it for now and I’m sticking to it.

Einar Steinsson


Association Affairs

From the Editor

There seems to be a misunderstanding that there is only one Santa Claus and that he lives on the North Pole but as all Icelanders know, all of the THIRTEEN Santas or Jólasveinar (“Christmas Lads”) live in Iceland. Icelanders themselves have different opinions on where in Iceland they live which mostly depends upon where the Icelanders grew up. People from the capitol all claim that the Lads still live at home with their parents, Grýla and Leppalúði, in the mountain Esja. Thirteen nights before Christmas they begin their descent from the mountain one by one until the last one appears in town on Christmas Eve. The first one to appear is Stekkjastaur and the last one is Kertasníkir. The others are Giljagaur, Stúfur, Gáttaþefur, Hurðaskellir, Bjúgnakrækir, Pottasleikir, Kjötkrókur, Skyrgámur (my favorite), Gluggagæir, Þvörusleikir and Askasleikir. They are a bit rough around the edges but all have a heart of gold and bring presents and the Christmas spirit to everyone. But be careful not to leave any food unguarded in your home since, as the names of most of them implies, it will be eaten. Everyone knows that carrying all these presents sure brings out your appetite if you are raised by trolls and only work 1 month out of the year. The day after Christmas they begin going back home until Þrettándann (the Thirteenth) when the last one leaves and Christmas is officially over. This is January 6th and is celebrated with Álfabrennu or Elven bonfires where you dance around the fires accompanied by Elves, goblins witches and sometimes trolls who are all happy this awfully dreadful Yuletide is gone and life can finally go back to normal. That is, until next year when the circle is repeated all over again.

When the first Santa is expected to arrive, children in Iceland put a shoe in the window and every night (if they have been nice) they get a treat from the Santa that comes into town that night. If they are naughty they receive a potato in their shoe which is not cool. And if you are very naughty you will even not get any presents on Christmas Eve and will be eaten by the big, black and scary Yulecat. So, be nice and and have a wonderful Christmas and a Happy New Year.

Annual Board Meeting November 2004 at CozyMel’s

Attendees: Einar Steinsson, President, Lena Hallgrímsdóttir (minute taker), John Hofteig, Anna Kárdal, Ásgeir Ólafsson, Binna Porter, Elva Johnson, Sonja & Marc Johnson, Katrin Heiðar, Steinar Guðmundsson, Joni & Larry Shaw. Kids: Óli Axel, Sigga, Ágústa Erna, Sóley Melkorka, Kristofer Mark, & Anna Katrín. Also, Joni and Larry´s daughter & family, and visiting from Iceland Lena’s brother and fiance Högni & Perla. Anna Kárdal the association’s treasurer presented last year’s numbers, which the meeting discussed and approved. The association had a profit of $701.46, which brings the current balance to $3318.66. The approved accounts are pending for Siggi Birkis’ audit in December.

The elected board for year 2005:
Einar Steinsson President
Anna Kárdal Treasurer
Lena Hallgrímsdottir Secretary
Steinar Guðmundsson Editor of Frón
Katrín Heiðar Assistant Editor of Frón
Binna Porter VP in charge of Þorrablót 2005
Elva Johnson VP
John Hofteig VP Membership
Joni Shaw VP Music & Christmas Party
Sonja Johnson VP
Stella Solis VP
Orri Hallgrímsson Webmaster

Larry Shaw was elected an Auditor of the association for the year 2004 - 2005.

Our Christmas tree at the Museum of Science and Industry

Our traditionally decorated Christmas tree is among fifty other trees now on display at the Museum of Science and Industry. We will take the tree down on January 16 at 3 pm. If you are interested in helping out, please contact Lena.


This year’s Þorrablót will be scaled down as previously discussed and agreed to. We may or may not have a band this year. We have reserved Joni and Larry Shaw’s clubhouse for February 12th. A deadline for reserving/purchasing tickets for the blot will be set up so we would know well in advance the exact head count.

Membership in the Icelandic Association of Chicago:
Annual membership fees are due January 10, 2004. Please, send to Dr. John Hofteig, 1942 Lehigh Centre - Unit C Glenview, IL 60025, a check made payable to Icelandic Association of Chicago. The new lower association fees for 2005 are $15 for an individual and $25 for a family.

We are actively soliciting new and renewed memberships in our group. If you want to join, re-join, or know people in the Chicago area of Icelandic descent or who want to know more about Iceland, please contact John H. Hofteig, VP, Membership, [Phone: 847 + 493 – 9065] our President, Einar Steinsson, or any of the other Board Members listed on our website:

Web Page

We will be moving our website to a new domain Larry and Joni have generously offered to sponsor the domain for couple of years. The plan is to update the look of the website. More info to follow.

Yulefest 2004

Larry and Joni would like to host a Christmas party on the 26th of December at 3PM. Let us know if you are interested and have time to attend.

Letters to the Association

Þórrablót 2005, 12-February-2005 (from John Hofteig)

Almar Grímsson, recently re-elected President of the Icelandic National League of Iceland (Þjóðræknisfélag Íslendinga) and his wife, Anna Björk, will be our guests at our Þórrablót 2005. They will also be attending the Minneapolis one, co-sponsored by the Icelandic-American Association of Minnesota and the Icelandic Women’s Hekla Club, the following week, 19-February-2005 (See details below).

Steinþór Guðbjartsson, Managing Editor, The Lögberg-Heimskringla , spent some time with Almar Grímsson in Iceland in early November, 2004. The following excerpts of his interview with Almar is reprinted with the kind permission of The Lögberg-Heimskringla from the 3-December-2004 issue, which began a series of articles under the Rubric of “Destination Iceland.” Subsequent issues will contain additional impressions of contemporary Iceland, including Steinþór’s interview of Paul Sveinbjörn Johnson, long-time member of our Icelandic Association of Chicago and former Honorary Icelandic Consul General in Chicago.

Strengthening contacts and making new ones:

The INL of Iceland, or ÞFÍ, was established 65 years ago…on December 1, 1939 and was very active for a number of years,” Almar says… “It was then revitalized in 1997…. The first project was the Snorri Program [an exchange program between Iceland and North America] and I often refer to it as the single most important activity that we have implemented in recent years. In fact the Snorri Program is a cornerstone in the successful work of INL Iceland.”

The importance of the ties between Iceland and North America:

“…To me this is like reuniting a family,” he says. “Many of us who belong to the third or fourth generation of Icelanders since the mass emigration of 1870 -1914 were only vaguely informed about the history of the emigration and the life, living conditions and culture of the Icelandic descendants in North America. There is now a new wave of interest, thanks to many factors. The most important, in my opinion, is the Hofsós Emigration Centre, which has given fantastic possibilities for getting new insight and information in this respect.”

The Snorri Program started it all:

About seven years ago Almar was formally connected to the collaboration with the descendants of the Icelandic immigrants in North America. “This was through my involvement in designing and promoting the Snorri Program. I frankly admit that I was ignorant and only vaguely knew that the siblings of my great grandmother left Dýrafjörður in the period 1874 - 1890. Now I have found some of my relatives and continue to re-establish family bonds.

“These years are like a new dimension in the lives of myself and my wife, Anna Björk. We instantly fell for the spontaneous friendship and hospitality wherever we have traveled. Actually, it is largely thanks to a coincidence in 1991 when, at an international conference in Washington, D.C., I met my friend and colleague Ernest Stefanson from Gimli. Eventually this led to us coming to the Icelandic Festival in Manitoba in 1998 and since then I have been deeply involved in furthering the collaboration between Iceland and ethnic Icelanders in North America. We have made many new and very dear friends through this and I am filled with gratitude for having had the opportunity to be a part of this great movement…”

“ÞFÍ can and should play a very crucial role in tying the associations of descendants of Icelanders in North America with Iceland,” says Almar. “We are a sister organization of Þjóðræknisfélag Íslendinga í Vesturheimi, INL of North America, and work towards the same goals…We in INL Iceland…want to work directly with any organization and institution that wishes to strengthen the ties between Iceland and people of Icelandic descent in North America.”

Visits becoming more and more popular:

“…We have a very important role in educational and information activities. The last few years, historian Jónas Þór has held two courses every winter on the history of emigration. These courses have been well attended and after the first course activity many participants showed great interest in following up by visiting settlements of the Icelandic emigrants. Such tours, which we call the SAGA Tours, continue, and in addition we have increased our tour activities...”

Almar has been instrumental in breathing new life into the ÞFÍ and he has proposed some plans for the near future. “We have held meetings in the north and east of Iceland…in light of the fact that a great majority of the emigrants were from these areas. We also took the important step to sign a formal agreement between INL Iceland and The Emigration Centre at Hofsós.

“We are also developing a good working relationship with Þjóðmenningarhús — The Culture House, or National Centre of Cultural Heritage. The expansion of the Snorri Program to cover other age groups has also proven to be very successful. The Snorri Plus [for adults and seniors] program will therefore continue and hopefully grow. Then of course the ‘people meet people’ activities in organizing tours to various destinations in the United States and Canada is of major importance. We focus on meeting with people wherever we visit and have a ‘kaffisopi’ together. We are particularly fond of the visits to homes for the elderly and regard those as highlights of the tours.

“Similarly we would like to be increasingly visited by groups from the same areas… [Please see their web site for information on past and future SAGA Tours to and from North America.]


Additional biographical information about Almar is available at the website for his pharmaceutical consulting firm, ALBAS. Almar has graduate degrees in Pharmacy and his career has included extensive international and national contributions affecting public health and pharmaceutical issues. He has served in the public sector as an elected deputy to the Hafnarfjörður City Council [2002] and an alternate member of the Althingi [2003]. He has been married to Anna Björk since 1962. They have three children and four grandchildren. Anna has also worked in the public sector in Iceland, was a co-owner of the Harnarfjarðar Apotek, and is a certified Yoga instructor. In recent years they have been active hosts for the Snorri programs both in Iceland and North America. Further information is available on the excellent web site [both Icelandic and English versions] for the INL of Iceland This website has several useful links to the INL of North America, the Snorri Program, and others sites. Almar will have in hand information concerning Snorri and very much welcomes participation by the Icelandic community in Chicago!

John Hofteig (JH)

The Norwegian National League

The Norwegian National League is beginning plans for a celebration of Leif Erikson Day on the weekend of Oct. 10 & 11, 2005. The year will mark 100 years of independence for Norway, which makes every celebration next year a little more important to the League.

The DesPlaines Public Library has given us the use of their premises as they did in 2001, so we are now contacting organizations and persons who might want to participate.

We would like to know what plans the Icelandic Association might have for this October. There is nothing in Carol Hoidahl’s “Scandinavian Events Calendar” except our own wreath-laying ceremony at the statue in Humboldt Park. Would you like to help us with our plans?

We are holding a seat open on the Board of Directors for an Icelander. The annual membership fee is $20 per member. Surely one Icelander would like to join and be a voting voice in this important organization.

Les Amack

News You Can Use

The Scandinavian Park Board

The governance of the Scandinavian Park, formerly known as Vasa Park, immediately south of Elgin on Route 31, has been recently updated to provide long term prudent management of this valuable community resource. Their Board is holding open a Board Membership for a representative of the Icelandic Community. The newly reorganized Board wants to actively.professionally manage this resource year-round. Please contact Einar Steinsson or John Hofteig if you are interested in representing our community. Their Board looks forward to our continued participation, including a much improved Scandinavian Day next September and a special 2005 observance of Leif Ericksson Day.


A growing Icelandic Christmas Tree Forest in Chicago

Iceland will soon have a second Christmas Tree in Chicago! Elsewhere you will have read about the Icelandic Christmas Tree at the Museum of Science and Industry. The Cook County Treasurer’s Office [in the Cook County/City of ChicagoBuilding] is helping us decorate a smaller Icelandic Christmas Tree, illustrating the Icelandic tradition of the Jólasveinar, the traditional thirteen Christmas lads, elves, who appear and then disappear, one by one, in the days before and after Christmas. Additional information about Icelandic Christmas traditions is available at the Icelandic and English website:


Iceland’s international leadership in geothermal research

Geothermal fields have long been in full production with effluent at the well head of sufficient power to drive electrical turbines producing enormous amounts of electricity. It is one of the primary reasons why aluminum smelting is booming in Iceland and why the Hydrogen Project may provide potentially viable energy alternatives to fossil fuels, as these both require enormous amounts of electricity. The Icelandic Deep Drilling Project, a consortium attracting industrial, academic, and governmental collaborators worldwide, is directing ground-breaking research permitting both on-shore and off-shore geothermal drilling at phenomenal depths. Additional information and relevant links are available on its English and Icelandic website:


Icelandic Lamb sold in Whole Food Market

Whole Food Market again is offering Icelandic lamb this Holiday season. The lamb is available in the Wheaton store and all over the country. Some of us already have reserved some for the dark winter months. But be aware it is sold out in many places and is also godly expensive.

The Lögberg-Heimskringla is North America’s oldest newspaper continuously published in both Icelandic and English. It is publishes 24 issues per year. Printed paper copies, delivered via airmail from Winnipeg, Manitoba are available in the United States for an annual subscription of USD $ 60.00 or in an internet-accessible paperless version for CDN $ 45.00 The internet version is an economical alternative because they are in the process of digitizing all 118 years of back issues and will have additional on-line resources. Full subscriptions to the printed version include full internet access, as well. Managing Editor, Steinþór Guðbjartsson, a seasoned Icelandic journalist known to readers of the Morgunblaðið, was recruited by The Lögberg-Heimskringla to increase the breadth of its coverage to include Icelandic communities throughout all of North America. One of his goals is to travel throughout all of North America to meet and interview people of Icelandic descent and to cover matters of interest to the broader Icelandic community. Further information is available on their website:

Another reason to run, not walk, to the post office to mail in your 2005 membership dues and reservation for our Chicago Þórrablót: Steinþór plans to attend both the Chicago and Minneapolis Thorrablot’s and will want to interview as many of our members as possible. Attending Thorrablot may very well get your picture in both the Lögberg-Heimskringla and the Morgunblaðið! Such a deal!


Minneapolis Þórrablót 2005, 19-February-2005

The Icelandic-American Association of Minnesota and The Icelandic Women’s Hekla Club invite members of our group to join them at their gala dinner, 19-Feb-2005, at the Sheraton Hotel [the old Radisson South], I-494 and Highway 100 in Bloomington. The cost at $ 40.00 per person includes a full array of traditional food from Iceland, American cuisine, and entertainment [local Minneapolis-Norwegian, Leroy Larson and his Scandinavian Player, the Icelandic musician and author, Valgeir Guðjónsson, dancing, and perhaps additional musicians from Iceland]. Optional shots of Brennivin may be purchased for $ 5.00 as a fund-raiser for the Val Björnsson Scholarship Fund. Paid reservations should be sent directly to John & Jana Magnusson, 13425 Gulf Court, Apple Valley, Minnesota 55124, by 5-Feb-2005. The special room rate at the Bloomington Sheraton has been over-subscribed, but interested attendees may contact John H. Hofteig [Phone: 847 + 493 – 9065] for assistance in finding affordable accommodations in the Twin Cities.