As the winter months finally begin to fade towards a much-anticipated pseudo-spring, it’s once again time to celebrate Konudagur, or Women’s Day. But if you think this is the latest feminist addition to the Icelandic holiday-packed calendar, think again. In fact, while the word Konudagur was first used in the the 19th century, the tradition dates back to centuries ago, having its roots in the old Nordic calendar.
Þorri and Góa
Traditionally, Konudagur always falls on a Sunday and on the first day of Góa, which is the second-to-last winter month, marking the time when the days start being visibly longer.
While etymologists aren’t sure about the meaning of the word Góa, it is thought to be related to the Norwegian word ‘gjø,’ which means ‘snowflake.’ According to old Nordic legends in fact, Góa, who was then called Gói, was the daughter of Þorri (the month Þorri ends exactly when Góa begins), granddaughter of Snær (snow) and Frosti (frost), niece of Mjöll (another word for snow) and Drífa (you guessed it, another word for snowfall).
Brighter days ahead
But what do Icelanders do on this day? The female equivalent of Bóndadagur, or Farmers Day, Konudagur is an occasion for women to be pampered and well thought of by their husbands, as well as to celebrate the arrival of spring and the brighter days ahead.
While centuries ago the tradition saw the man of the house stepping out in the snow lightly dressed to welcome Góa into the barn, later on the tradition began to change, especially when men were away from home for work-related reasons. Then, the housewives took it upon themselves to wake up and go out in the snow to welcome Góa by saying:
“Velkomin sértu, góa mín,
og gakktu í bæinn;
vertu ekki úti í vindinum
(“Welcome, my dear Góa,
and come inside;
don’t stay out in the wind,
oh summer day.”)
So don’t forget, this Sunday before pancakes and coffee, step outside the house without a coat and welcome Góa into your house with a smile: after all, there are only brighter days ahead, right?