Monday, December 24, 2007

Aðfangadagskvöld (Christmas Eve)

Christmas is almost here and the kids are visibly excited about it. The last of the Yule Lads, Candle Beggar, came down from the mountains and brought his treats to children. According to Icelandic tradition the main Christmas celebration will begin promptly at 18:00 o’clock today. The ringing of the church bells of Reykjavik’s Lutheran Cathedral will be broadcast on all major television and radio stations and then the feast will start. The Christmas presents will also be opened today, and our boys are trying to convince us to do the same but we are not sure yet of our decision.

Sometime in November we went to the sculpture garden of Einar Jonsson, the most famous sculptor of Iceland. He has this beautiful sculpture – Jöl. Its rich symbolism and simplicity makes me return to it again and again.

A small figure of Noel stands in front of an angel, erect, arms spread in almost a cross position. A cape, adorned with stars covers almost his entire figure, leaving just a head, bare feet and arms in view. Five-point stars run along the edge of the cape with a six-pointed Marian Star in the center. Stars traditionally represent the Star of Bethlehem which led the wise men to the Christ child. But then the Marian Star is a symbol used by the Roman Catholic Church in relation with the Virgin Mary. The enclosing of a five-point star inside it brings together the symbols of mother and son. All stars are the ringed stars and the interlacing of points and circles can be viewed as a perfect balance, harmony. The cape itself has an oval shape; its folds create the rays running from the center, and bring the sun to the mind of the viewer. If you stand directly in front of the sculpture, you would not see the figure of the Angel kneeling behind Noel. Come to the side and you will be overwhelmed by the strength emanating from this figure. The width of the wings, the strength of the arms contrasts with the humble way he has positioned himself behind the child. It is hard to decide if he is there to provide protection or asking for it.

This sculpture, with its contrast of strength and fragility, became the perfect image of Christmas for me.

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