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Easter in Iceland

By Brian Borgford

For those who strictly observe the Christian religions, Easter is a commemoration of the death and resurrection of their saviour. For those less religious individuals, Easter represents a national holiday and a family day to search for hidden Easter eggs. In Iceland, a country not known for its religiosity, the event skews slightly to the family and celebratory side, with a healthy respect for the origins of the commemoration. 

Although the exact date of the annual Easter commemoration changes every year according to the lunar cycle, it still coincides with the arrival of spring, so the two events have become conflated. Spring signals new beginnings, as represented by an egg – thus the Easter Egg. 

In Iceland, the Easter Egg, especially a large chocolate Easter Egg filled with goodies and a written message, has come to represent Easter during the five-day holiday—Maundy Thursday through to Easter Monday. 

Skíradagur (Maundy Thursday). Good Friday is called Föstudagurinn Langi (Long Friday), Páskadagur (Easter), and then Annar Páskum (the second day of Easter – Easter Monday).

Fourteen-year-old children are often confirmed into the Church of Iceland (Lutheran) at Easter. 

According to Sunna Olafson Furstenau, the official Easter days are preceded by other significant days:

Monday, is Bolludagur (Bun Day or Cream Puff Day) in Iceland. Many people will get their fill of these delicious bollur treats. Tuesday is called Sprengidagur (Bursting Day) or Shrove Tuesday. This is historically the last day people could eat meat before Langafasta (Lent). Many Icelanders will be eating a traditional meal: Saltkjöt og Baunir, (Salted Lamb or Horse and Split-pea Soup). My friends in Iceland say they make pönnukökur on this day, too. Wednesday is Öskudagur (Ash Wednesday). Traditionally, ashes in small bags were secretly pinned on the clothing of people. Modern-day children dress up in costumes and sing in shops for treats. It is much like the North America Halloween. Öskudagur is also a day for weather predictions. Whatever the day is on Wednesday, it will be the same for 18 more days. Langafasta (Lent) starts Wednesday. In Iceland, the old folk tales say that even mentioning meat during Langafasta was forbidden. The fast of Lent lasts forty days in some traditions and ends just before Easter.

The religious significance of Easter is not lost and forgotten in Iceland, but it must share the stage with the family and fun associated with Easter in modern Iceland.


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