From the President’s desk
Gleðileg Jól – Merry Christmas. Happy New Year.
The Icelandic Association of Chicago has woken up a bit in 2021. We did not have Þorrablót but celebrated Iceland’s Independence Day 17th of June at Kolla’s house, had a fantastic successful Icelandic Open at Hilldale golf course with six teams, established a Solidarity Fund, took active part in Scandinavian Day and sold Icelandic Glacial Water for the Scholarship fund, decorated the Icelandic Christmas Tree at The Museum of Science and Industry, and held General Meeting in China Town!
Unfortunately, our Þorrablót will be cancelled in 2022, mainly due to Covid. The venues that could hold it are either partially open or not with the service level we need. Hopefully, we will have Þorrablót soon or maybe Summer Fest with Icelandic Food and music. Many of our members have been to Iceland in 2021 and that includes Lena and I, we spent two weeks with family and friends in August. We had a great time and lucked out with the weather as important as that is there.
In Other News:
As most of you know, US did open to travelers from Iceland in November so visitations can start again. If you need information about traveling to Iceland and requirements go to www.covid.is.
Parliament election in September did not go smoothly in Iceland as some recounting and verification needed to be done. After that was resolved recently new government was formed but with the same parties but some reshuffling of ministers. I as the Honorary Consul of Iceland have a new boss, the Foreign Minister, Thórdís Kolbrún Reykfjörd Gylfadóttir.
An Icelander has won the Swedish Idol, similar to the American Idol. This is interesting as Birkir Blær has only been living in Sweden for six months.
Finally, remember to pay your membership fee to support IAC and/or make donations to Scholarship or Solidarity Fund, it is tax deductible, now that we have our Non for-Profit Status.
May you all enjoy quality time with family and friends over the holidays.
Unfortunately, this year has been challenging for social events and the ever popular Thorrablot has been cancelled again due to the pandemic. However, this newsletter has information including how you can apply for or renew your membership in IAC, how to donate to IAC, how to apply for scholarships and opportunities to learn more about the Icelandic National League of North America.
From the Editor
The 13 Icelandic Yule lads are still arriving in Iceland (and in the US for kids of Icelandic heritage). Hopefully the kids are behaving and getting gifts or treats and not a potato in their shoe.
Feel free to contact me with original articles for the newsletter or suggestions on topics to cover.
I wish you all Happy Holidays and a happy New Year. Here's to a healthy 2022 and the return of IAC in-person events.
Kolla Kristjansdottir Fass
After a day and night under a fur blanket, like Þorgeir Ljósvetningagoði, we‘ve decided to postpone Þorrablót for 2022. There are simply too many things pending Covid that could affect our party last minute, incurring added stress and cost. Thanks to everyone who completed our Þorrablót survey, we appreciate your feedback.
Thorrablot 2022 Cancelled
Until next time – Cheers.
Chair of Þorrablót
Please renew your IAC Membership here. Single membership is only $10, Family membership is $20.
IAC also has not-for-profit status. You can donate to help preserve and enrich the legacy of Icelandic heritage by donating directly to the association. You can also donate to the Scholarship fuld to support individuals interesting in learning the Icelandic language. Or you can donate to the new Solidarity Fund to help members facing hardship. If you are interested in making a donation to any of these causes please go to Donate – Icelandic Association of Chicago (icelandchicago.org)
IAC Scholarship Fund & Scandinavian Day 2021
Scandinavian Day-2021 was very successful and the IAC Scholarship Program has sufficient funds to support several applications, especially since Covid-19 discouraged activities for which assistance would have beee needed.
The recent IAC – AGM approved new limits:
Application forms and guidelines will be automated with the help of IAC’s webmaster and open enrollment/application will be “continuous,” eliminating the problem of authorizing applications during the AGM when the Snorri Foundation and academic faculties have different application deadlines.
- Up to USD $ 400.00 for Icelandic-language instruction, younger applicants preferred;
- Up to USD $ 1,000.00 for participation in Snorri or Snorri-Plus or any bona fide academic program with a relevant Icelandic-focus;
- Up to USD $ 1,000.00 for bona fide volunteer-service in Iceland for an approved purpose and for which the applicant will have ample opportunity to enhance his or her conversational Icelandic-language skills.
Two of the programs which are eligible for IAC Scholarship stipend support are: SNORRI and SNORRI-PLUS, both administered by the Reykjavík-based Snorri Foundation [www.Snorri.is]. SNORRI is for North American young adults and SNORRI-PLUS is for North American mature adults and retirees. Both programs are excellent opportunities for North Americans to learn more about their Icelandic-heritage, though one need not be of Icelandic-descent to apply and participate. Snorri Foundation deadlines are indicated on its website.
Our IAC webmaster will be posting and/or creating a LINK to a wonderful Twenty-Year Report of all the Snorri-related programs. It is an incredible, full-color, ninety-page-plus report, very well-documented and provides information on these wonderful opportunities to connect or re-connect with Iceland, past and present. The Snorri Foundation, literally, “Moves Heaven and Earth” to help Snorri participants connect with relatives in Iceland and the places in Iceland from which participants’ families came to North America.
For the last two years, Covid-19 has restricted these programs. NOW they are OPEN and the IAC Scholarship Program has more than adequate resources to help IAC members and their families participate in SNORRI or SNORRI-PLUS. Please consider applying and know that your application and participation will be most-welcome and will pay you dividends to last a lifetime!
For inquiries and application, please liaise with John: JohnHaldor@gmail.com
Volunteers for IAC Scholarship Committee
Volunteers to join the IAC Scholarship Committee are needed and most-welcome! Committee members review applications and make recommendations to the IAC Board. They are expected to help with Scholarship-fundraising, e.g., helping at Scandinavian Day. Please liaise with John: JohnHaldor@gmail.com
Taste of Iceland
Stay-Tuned! Taste of Iceland will be returning for the third time, later this year and John will circulate relevant details when available.
Invitations to the IAC from the INLNA
Invitations to the IAC from the INLNA:
John continues on the Board of the Icelandic National League of North America [www.INLofNA.org], which invites the IAC learn more about the INLNA and to participate in some its programs, as described below.
The INLNA 2022 calendar: MAJESTIC REYKJAVIK
John has copies and will sell them at USD $ 12.00 with all proceeds going to the IAC Scholarship Fund. If interested in purchasing calendars, please liaise with John: JohnHaldor@gmail.com.
INLNA 2021-2022 webinar series, EVERYTHING ICELANDIC
EVERYTHING ICELANDIC is INLNA’s re-branded name for its thought-provoking, informative webinars.
ALL are welcome to login to these webinars, which will be archived on the INLNA website. For the exact time [usually on Thursdays], please email the INLNA Office: INL@mts.net for free login credentials.
20-Dec-2021: “A Little Look at Christmas in Iceland.”
20-Jan-2022: “Kerecis.” Kerecis.com is an innovative Icelandic company with a research- and biomanufacturing- facility in Arlington, VA, which transforms fish skin into an FDA-approved non-allergenic substrate which recruits human skin cells essential for wound-healing in severe burns and diabetes.
10-Feb-2022: “Secrets of the Sprakkar: Iceland’s Extraordinary Women and How They Are Changing the World,” the new book by the Canadian-born First Lady of Iceland, Ms. Eliza Reid, exploring gender-equality in Iceland. Sprakkar is an old Icelandic term referring to extraordinary women.
3-Mar-2022: “Columbusity,” the strange, hard-to-translate “cousin” of serendipity.
24-Mar-2022: “From Reykjavík to the West Fjörds” is a preview of the INLNA’s August-2022 tour to the West Fjörds.
28-Apr-2022: “Live from Gimli, MB” is an on-the-scene report from the INLNA Convention, 28th to the 30th of April, 2022, hosted by the INLNA Interlakes Clubs.
10-May-2022: “Wind, Gravel, and Ice: Iceland in World War II” is Christina Chowaniec’s memoir of her Canadian grandfather’s challenging experience, early in the World War II preemptive occupation of Iceland by British Empire soldiers, unpopular at the time but essential to prevent the imminent invasion of this strategic sovereign North Atlantic nation by Nazi forces.
The INLNA Biography Project
This project profiles Icelandic immigrants who have made significant contributions to life in North American and soon will recognize three Icelandic immigrants in Chicago. Chester Hjortur Thordarson [Chester Hjörtur Þórðarson was an early [1867 – 1945] Icelandic immigrant inventor renowned for his contributions to electric transformer technology and for having amassed one of the greatest private American collections of Icelandic and British books, eventually purchased by the University of Wisconsin-Madison, comprising the core of its rare-book collection. Early in the Twentieth Century, Chester’s company, Thordarson Electric, hired many of the same Icelandic immigrants who were members of the antecedents to our current IAC. After he lost control of his company, early during the Great Depression, the new management summarily dismissed his loyal Icelandic employees. On 1-January-1934, Lawrence Johnson, Chester’s factory superintendent and early IAC member, started Johnson Electric Coil Company, at first repairing and rebuilding transformers. As his business prospered, he built transformers and eventually hired local Icelandic immigrants. His son, a more recent IAC member, William Johnson, now Chairman Emeritus, has been associated with this successful family and partially employee-owned company for nearly sixty-five years. All three will have biographies posted and shared with the IAC.
John will write the biography for Lawrence Johnson and for the ninety-five-years-young [as of 21-October-2021] William Johnson and will solicit help from Richard Purinton, the Washington Island author of the definitive biography of Chester Thordarson [© 2013] and history of Rock Island. These biographies will also be archived on the IAC website: www.IcelandChicago.org. The Johnson family has long-been associated with the IAC. Bill’s sister, Marjorie, along with Undine Johnson [no relation] and Joni Shaw’s mother, Dorothy, wrote the definitive history of the IAC, tracing its roots back to its two antecedent Icelandic organizations in Chicago.
Icelandic American Chamber of Commerce (IAAC)
The New York City-based Icelandic American Chamber of Commerce [IAAC] for which John remains an active member:
Throughout the year, the IAAC produces informative webinars with senior Icelandic officials regarding foreign policy and economic trends in Iceland, many of which are archived for a time. John will be working to make more of these accessible to our IAC.
Snorri-West, managed by the INLNA in collaboration with the Snorri Foundation, welcomes four Icelandic young adults to North American venues where Icelandic-heritage continues to be celebrated. It offers Snorri’s-West and their hosts opportunities to connect. This program is the reciprocal North American corollary to SNORRI, which welcomes North Americans to Iceland. IcelandicRoots offers complimentary genealogical mapping to link Snorri’s-West and their hosts and help identify the farms and towns from which earlier immigrants came and the current homes of the Snorri’s-West. Snorri-West operates on a three-year geographic/regional cycle: East, Midwest, and Mountain/Pacific. July, 2022 will be the last chance for Snorri-West to come to the Mid-West until 2025. Snorri-West usually includes only Manitoba, North Dakota, and Minnesota but the INLNA had invited the IAC to participate in an Illinois/Wisconsin add-on at the beginning of Snorri-West-2022 because it recognizes that Chicago, Milwaukee, and Washington Island are historic and contemporary venues for significant Icelandic immigration to North America. The Mid-West Corridor always ends with visits to the two largest North American Icelandic festivals: August-the-Duece in Mountain, ND and Íslendingadagurinn in Gimli, MB.
So far, indications of interest have been received: from John to prepare a traditional American Thanksgiving Day dinner for the Snorri’s-West followed by a desert-social reception for the entire IAC; from John to escort/chauffeur the Snorri’s-West; from organist Sharon Peterson and Village Presbyterian [Northbrook] to host a recital of Icelandic music and reception for the Chicago-area Icelandic- and Scandinavian community; from friends on Washington Island to host a two-day tour of Washington Island and Rock Island; and from William Johnson and Johnson Electric Coil Company to be hosts in Antigo, WI. The INLNA hopes that the IAC will accept its invitation. More specific information regarding this opportunity will be shared with the IAC Board.
A "Must-See" on any visit to Reykavik, Hotel Holt
Reykjavík has newer, larger, glitzier, and more expensive hotels but none compares to Hótel Holt for elegance, old-world charm, and Icelandic art treasures which abound throughout all of its public and private spaces.
I first became familiar with Hótel Holt in June, 1999, while taking photographs in the Botanical Gardens, when I heard a familiar voice from the past walking up behind me. Gunnar Mathíasson, a Lutheran priest in Reykjavík, and his wife, Arnfríður Guðmundsdóttir, also a Lutheran priest, were members of the Icelandic Association of Chicago for a few years in the 1990’s while he was a chaplain at Chicago’s Northwestern Hospital and she was a graduate student at the Lutheran School of Theology at Chicago. Gunnar volunteered that he had served as a translator for President Reagan’s party and as a courier between the American Embassy and Hótel Holt during the Reagan-Gorbachev summit in Reykjavík. For security reasons, it was supposed to be a secret that his delegation stayed there but everybody knew that Hótel Holt, Reykjavík’s most elegant hotel, had to be the president’s residence. Subsequently, in 2000 and 2001, I was a luncheon guest at Hótel Holt but was only briefly in its dining room. It was in March, 2002, when I became much more familiar with this gem in the historic þingholt district at Bergstaðastræti 37 [011-354-552-5700], a few blocks down the hill from Hallgrímskirkja and a few blocks from the building shared by the Embassies of the United Kingdom and the Federal Republic of Germany. I had offered to host my oldest Aunt, Margaret, and an Icelandic lady who had befriended us on a prior visit to Hallgrímskirkja. The only restaurant nearby, open on Sunday, was the Hotel’s dining room. On this visit, we spent considerable time exploring all of the public spaces in this historic hotel. Practically every square inch of all the public and private spaces, including the lobby, lounge, bar, dining room, meeting rooms, hallways, and guest rooms is adorned by Iceland’s largest private collection of over five hundred examples of original artwork by well-known Icelandic artists, a legacy preserved by the hotel’s founders, þorvaldur Guðmundsson and Ingibjörg Guðmundsdóttir, in 1965, who for several years were successful proprietors of prominent restaurants, hotels, and meat markets, even a large pig farm. Hótel Holt is now managed by their daughter, Geirlaug þorvaldsdóttir. Their hotels were often the venue for festive banquets in honor of Icelandic and foreign dignitaries. Their legacy of priceless original Icelandic artwork was the result of having befriended once-fledging Icelandic artists and purchasing their artwork long before these artists became world-famous.
In 2002, many restaurants and hotels in Reykjavík still permitted smoking in public spaces. Following our self-directed tour, my Aunt told a family friend, a geothermal engineer living in Reykjavík, that she was mortified that smoking was permitted in the presence of such priceless artwork. His response: “Not to worry!” Earlier-on, he had known the hotel’s building engineer, who volunteered the following anecdote: When the original founder contracted for a new HVAC system, he told the contractor that he had only three instructions: The system had to protect his art collection; the system had to be quiet so as not to disturb his guests; and cost was no object: Just do everything right!
Upon request, the Front Desk staff will give visitors a tour of the building, including looking at a guest room, each of which includes original Icelandic artwork, a tour which a few of us enjoyed as Snorri’s-Plus in 2006.
Further detailed information regarding this Reykjavík gem is available by Googling two reports: “Hotel Holt Our Story” and “The quiet elegance of Hotel Holt.” J.H.H.