From Iceland — Sprengidagur: As If We Needed Another Excuse To Stuff Our Faces

Sprengidagur: As If We Needed Another Excuse To Stuff Our Faces

Published February 16, 2021

Sprengidagur: As If We Needed Another Excuse To Stuff Our Faces
John Pearson
Photo by
Art Bicnick

Today is a special day in Iceland, known as Sprengidagur. Now before you ask Google Translate to mangle that word into something vaguely resembling English, we’ll save you the bother by telling you that the phrase “explosion day” will result. And if that sounds a tad sinister, then perhaps we should elaborate.

Sprengidagur is a day on which Icelanders traditionally eat saltkjöt og baunir, (salted meat—possibly horse—and beans), to the point of exploding. A messy concept, admittedly, but fortunately not one to be taken literally.

In fact today’s food fest is really just an Icelandic expression of the international Christian festival of Fat Tuesday, a custom celebrated in various ways around the world. The common global theme for Fat Tuesday is pigging out before Lent, the six-week period before Easter.

The fast and the mildly cranky

Lent is the time when good Christians fast to be more like Jesus, who famously spent forty days in the desert without eating. The idea of feeding your face on Sprengidagur is to cheat; to ensure that you get good ‘n’ lardy before you spend the next six weeks fasting in a hangry funk.

The British call today Shrove Tuesday, and use it as an excuse to stuff themselves with pancakes. And over in New Orleans, Mardi Gras— Fat Tuesday, in the local Creole language—has become more about dressing up as a Rio showgirl than porking up for Jesus. But if sashaying in feathers and sequins is more your thing than gluttony, then go for it. You’ll find that we’re not ones to judge.

But back to Iceland. Today’s encouragement to overeat comes hot on the heels of yesterday’s Bolludagur, the day on which Icelanders gorge on bollar—creamy puffy pastry balls. This double whammy to the digestive system means that the idea of portly Icelanders exploding after today’s salty, meaty feast might not be so far fetched after all—especially with Covid limiting access to the gyms.

So if you want to join us in celebrating Sprengidagur, then feel free to crack out some salted horse meat and a bowl of beans. But please, always check with your physician before overeating. We don’t want any messy explosions.

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