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Christmas in the shadow of the kreppa

These are busy days here at the Weather Report. The last few days before Christmas and so many little details to take care of.

I’m sure most of you can relate.

I’ve been rather pleased with myself this year at how well organized I am – when you do the same things every year it gets to be a bit of a routine, which is a Good Thing. I know enough now, for instance, to buy the Christmas tree a few days early so we don’t get the absolute dregs, I know to do the major grocery shopping at least 4-5 days before Big Day to avoid Big Rush, I know enough to put the tree up a day before we decorate [i.e. today] so that its branches even out a little bit before we start decorating tomorrow. – Yes that’s right – the tradition here is that the tree goes up on the 22nd or 23rd and stays up for the official duration of Christmas, or until Twelfth Night, which we call þrettándinn [The Thirteenth] because we happen to celebrate our Yule a day earlier than Anglo-Saxon tradition dictates, i.e. on Christmas Eve.

I think all Christmas presents except one are taken care of [I keep racking my brain to see if I’ve missed anything – it seems too good to be true] and most of them are even wrapped as this year I decided it was no fun wrapping the prezzies in a mad haste at 5 pm on the 24th when instead I should be lazily getting out of the shower and into my best clothes for when the church bells “ring in Christmas” at 6 pm. Well, either that or in the kitchen getting dinner ready. This year, like most years, the menu is pretty fixed: shrimp and lobster tartalettes as an appetizer, then hamborgarahryggur [delicious smoked ham – a Danish tradition] with a burnt sugar glaze and all the trimmings, and chocolate mousse for dessert.

Anyway, my impeccable organization got somewhat derailed yesterday when Polly the cockatiel had an accident, i.e. got caught in between the door and the door jamb in a nasty draft [it’s been incredibly windy here, not to mention COLD]. It looked like she’d broken her leg [i.e. couldn’t walk on it, held it all twisted outwards from her body, had to hobble along using her beak for support, POOR THING!] and called for all sorts of emergency measures, as I’m sure you can imagine. Needless to say, that threw all plans out of whack. She went for x-rays today, though, and it turns out that there is no fracture, just very bad bruising [she still can’t use her leg] – phew!

As if that weren’t enough, both my car and EPI’s car decided to give us grief and both needed to be taken in for repairs. EPI’s today, mine tomorrow, which again has called for strategic reorganization.

But even so, I think we’re doing pretty well.

I have to say, though, that I have a general sense that this Christmas is hitting people kind of hard. I think many of us are really feeling the pinch of the kreppa now because not only has everyone’s food bill gone up a lot [I’d say our weekly food bill has almost doubled from what it was two years ago] but all of a sudden we notice just how limited our spending power is. After all, along with all the price hikes [our currency plummeted and most things are imported] many people had to take a reduction in their pay. Last Christmas I suspect stores were selling merchandise that had been ordered before the collapse so prices hadn’t gone up that much; this year it’s really noticeable. Our wages buy a lot less than they did just a year ago – and it’s only going to get worse, because this morning parliament passed legislation allowing for more price and tax hikes, including an increase in the already-hefty 24.5% VAT [sales tax] up to 25.5%.

So that’s how the kreppa is felt – not all at once, but slowly. The clamp is tightened bit by bit. And I don’t have any scientific evidence of this, but my feeling is that many people are struggling, either financially or emotionally, or both.

BUT THE GOOD NEWS IS…
That it is the winter solstice today, and from now on the day will start to grow longer, bit by bit by bit. There is always a shift around here when that starts to happen, so let’s see whether the general mood of the Nicelandic nation doesn’t start to lift soon.The weather has not been very helpful as of late – it has been MISERABLE around here for days, with strong winds or even gales from the north and sub-zero temps, a dry and nasty kind of cold. It looks like we’re having a green Christmas this year [the Icelanders call it red, don’t know why] – whereas large swathes of Europe and the US are submerged in snow. Go figure. Right now temps are -2°C [28F], sunrise was at 11.21 am and sunset at 3.29 pm.

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  • sylvia hikins December 21, 2009, 11:49 pm

    Oh my, that unusual shift in climate! You are having a ‘red’ Christmas. Here in north west England we are having a white pre-Christmas bonanza with all the usual accompaniments- snow on the runway (cancelled planes), snow on the line (cancelled trains) and out come snow ploughs that look like relics from the second world war! Without rubber lumps on our tyres, cars and lorries adorn the motorways. But the kids love it and even old cronies like me get playful, build snowpeople, throw snow balls and put food out for the birds. So if this year we are getting your snow, then thanks for a lovely Yuletide gift. All of your Pink Footed Geese and Whooper Swans who are over-wintering in the northwest join me in wishing you a happy Christmas Alda and thank you for all the thought and work you put into this blog. Both the birds and I can’t wait to fly back to Iceland in 2010.
    sylvia from viking wirral

  • sigga December 22, 2009, 12:50 am

    Gleðilég Jól Alda og farsælt komandi ár – takk fyrir það liðna. Look forward to your future blogs and hope that next year will be a better year for all of us.
    You know that panic that your talked about – I got it at 5pm today, on leaving the hairdressers…. hence I am still up trying to sort out the mess that this house is before the Aussies invade tomorrow – at least it’s snowing here so it means they will get a white christmas… was getting a tad worried there for a while.

  • The Fred from the forums December 22, 2009, 7:52 am

    I had just been thinking that I missed reading about Polly. I wish her a speedy recovery!

  • kevin o'connor waterford ireland December 22, 2009, 10:58 am

    Interesting your reflections on stuff doubling in the shops ie imported stuff, as a wannabe icelandic tourist, I am interested in the price of things and I note that it has taken the halving of the currency to make Iceland kind of normal for the price of things ie 100,000 krona for a months rent on a flat, 1 euro thereabouts for litre of petrol etc etc,before this currency collapse it must have seemed to the Icelanders travelling round Europe how everything was half price compared to back home due to the strength of of krona brought about by the high interest rates which led them into the trap of the foreign currency denominated home loans which has now closed on them unfortunately.Plus also the gasps from poverty stricken German,British,American tourists when they attempted to buy a restaurant meal or a beer
    You can see the exchange rate to the Euro since 1999 here

    http://www.tititudorancea.com/lib/fx/iceland_eur_to_isk_all.png.
    Some of those guys must be doing it tough now as you look at that chart even if you were renting you might be in danger of losing your home as the landlord cant pay his now doubled investment loan. So yes Alda I can see that all things being equal the price of olive oil should have doubled by now as the lag of previous imports at the old rate wears out. The Icelandic economy might be in for lean times as we are in Ireland peak to trough we will have lost 20% of ou GDP, Plus the small matter of that Icesave thing exporting all that cash euros from Iceland, definitely import substitution going on in Iceland over the next few years.
    PS Please dont mention that Icelandic VAT rate in a public forum again I dont want you putting Ideas into our Governments head ha ha. Apart from that Merry Christmas from Ireland.

  • Sam December 22, 2009, 7:35 pm

    Alda

    I have a question.

    Considering that the krona was highly overvalued during the boom period, would you say that your food bill is now higher or lower than it was before the bank privatizations?

    I know you’re busy with Christmas and all, so I wont die of disappointment if you can’t answer, but I’m just curious.

    With all the way-too-easy money being tossed around during the expansion, I’m going to guess that in real terms, it would have been lower. Just a guess.

  • BRADSTREET December 23, 2009, 12:22 am

    I know that compassion is cheap, but I really hope that things start to improve for Iceland soon. With inflation running at around 10%, it must feel like the walls are closing in for a lot of people.

    To lighten the mood–I recently read an article about people holidaying in Iceland nowadays. An American was talking to an Icelandic playwright, asking him ‘What’s the deal? Where are all the breadlines?’
    ‘Breadlines?’ replied the writer. ‘Did you expect Rekyjavik to be full of bakeries?’

  • Melissa December 23, 2009, 8:21 pm

    What a contrast to my own Aussie Christmas. Australia often bills itself as ‘the lucky country’ and certainly at the moment, it’s living up to that moniker. It is one of the few, if not only, developed nation to avoid a recession, unemployment has peaked (yes, peaked) at 5.8% and the Australian dollar is strong. The only impact the financial crisis has had on Christmas is slightly more sensible spending, instead of the usual credit card binge.

    Rather than worrying about snow falls bringing planes and trains to a halt, I’ll be hoping the temperatures stay below 40 degrees celcius. We’ll roast our ham and turkey in advance and eat cold meat on Christmas Day so that no-one has to slave away in a hot kitchen on the main day. There’ll be backyard cricket, parents chasing after their children to slather them with sunscreen and a never-ending task of swatting flies away from the food (which will, of course, be eaten outside on the veranda).

    But it’s not all paradise. Bushfires have already destroyed dozens of homes this summer. The nation, collectively, will be hoping there’s no repeat of the devastating fires that ravaged my home state of Victoria last year. There will no doubt be some horrific road crashes as people drive marathon distances across this enormous country to be with family. I’m sure this year will be no exception.

    So, I guess each country has its own troubles. As long as we’ve all got something to be happy about as well! Merry Christmas, Happy New Year, thanks for a great blog.It’s always entertaining and informative – and a great escape from other side of the world.

  • Halli S. December 24, 2009, 2:37 pm

    Concerning the hamborgarhryggur, thought I’d mention that while it’s a Danish tradition, it arrived from Germany (Kasseler), see http://www.visindavefur.is/svar.php?id=6463

    Happy holidays.