If you’re looking to make a friend on Christmas Eve this year, Samtökin ’78 has you set. The national queer organization will be holding its second annual holiday dinner on December 24th, where all are welcome to come out for an evening surrounded by friendly faces and holiday cheer.
Guðmunda Smári Veigarsdóttir began organizing the Christmas dinner at Samtökin ‘78 last year after realizing it was important for queer folks in Reykjavík to have a safe and welcoming space to spend the holidays.
“Christmas isn’t always a good time for queer people,” Guðmunda says. “Family gatherings can be difficult, you don’t always have family in the queer world, sometimes you feel rejection from your family or they don’t want you around, even though that’s not that common in Iceland. And there are increasingly more queer foreigners in Iceland who might not have family to attend to. To have a place and space where you know you would always be welcome and where you could go is important.”
How many people came out to the dinner last year?
“We had, about ten people at our dinner last year. Most of them came for the dinner and to help prepare it. My idea of it last year was that it would go until maybe 10 and then we’d wrap it up. But then one person came and we were playing games, and it turned out that, because we were just sitting and playing games and having a laugh, it was not over until after midnight.
“Christmas isn’t always a good time for queer people. Family gatherings can be difficult, you don’t always have family in the queer world, sometimes you feel rejection from your family or they don’t want you around, even though that’s not that common in Iceland.”
It’s not about how many people show up, for me, but more the jollyness of it. Because, even though just one person showed up, we’re still having it and there was still a person who came who felt welcome and who needed it. And some people don’t need it. Like, last year we had a lot of people who were there who thought it was a cool idea and who wanted to support it. This community bonding is important.”
How long have you been volunteering at Samtökin ’78?
“I started volunteering in the youth group more than ten years ago. And in some way or another I’ve been kind of involved since then. Initially I got involved because when I was discovering myself, I was coming out of a really deep and long-term depression, and I needed a place to go where I would be accepted and welcomed. It really helped me a lot and helped me overcome my depression and social anxiety, so I felt a responsibility to continue and help others how it had helped me.”
Where did the idea to start this Christmas tradition come from?
“In my family, since I was little, our Christmas table was always open. If someone was going to be alone on Christmas, they could come, no matter how close the connection was. So it was kind of ingrained in me, this Icelandic thing that it’s okay to be alone, but if you want there should always be space for you somewhere on Christmas.”
Will you be missing out on Christmas festivities with your own family?
“Yeah, I will. I have a little sister who’s nine, and she’s going to miss me during Christmas, I will have to find some arrangements for next year, because I think my little sister would disown me if I did this three years in a row. She was really looking forward to opening the packages with me, and doing all the Christmas-y stuff because she’s really into that.”
“Initially I got involved because when I was discovering myself, I was coming out of a really deep and long-term depression, and I needed a place to go where I would be accepted and welcomed.”
What are you most looking forward to at this year’s dinner?
“Last year it surprised me how festive it became. Everyone set the decorations neatly up and the plating was so nice, and it became really, really festive, even though that can be hard in the space that Samtökin is in. So I guess I’m looking forward to seeing how a complete bunch of strangers can become family over one meal.”
Samtökin ’78’s Christmas Eve open house will start at 5 p.m., with dinner being served at 7 p.m. Everyone is welcome, whether they are queer or not, although it is important everyone shows respect for each other. For more information about the event, visit the Facebook page.