Bolludagur, Sprengidagur, and Öskudagur: an Icelandic holiday trifecta of food and fun. They take place on the three days leading up to the start of Lent, and centre mostly around stuffing yourself with treats. These back-to-back holidays hearken back to the days when Catholicism reigned supreme in Iceland, and the purpose of Lent was to fast, refrain from luxuries, and basically make yourself suffer (because that’s what Jesus would’ve wanted?). So naturally, before the great misery of Lent, Icelanders would try to satisfy a month’s worth of indulgence in three days. Even after Iceland went Lutheran and never looked back, they kept the holidays because they’re just so much fun.
Bolludagur, this year falling on March 7, kicks off the celebrations. Translated as “Bun Day”, Bolludagur centres on eating copious amounts of chocolate-covered pastries filled with cream and jam. For children, Bolludagur comes with the added bonus of getting to spank their parents. Children must get up early in order to spank their parents in bed with a special “bolluvondur”, or bun wand, and yell “Bolla! Bolla! Bolla!” They get a pastry for each spank.
Next up is Sprengidagur, or “Bursting Day.” As you might have already guessed, the holiday tradition is to eat… until you burst. The customary food for Sprengidagur is salty mutton and split pea soup, and the customary amount is whatever you can fit in your stomach. Hopefully your Sprengidagur won’t be followed by a traditional stomach ache, or traditional regret.
The last day on this holiday marathon is the Ash Wednesday celebration, Öskudagur. Öskudagur could be described as Icelandic Halloween, with children dressing up in costumes seeking candy, but without the extortion. Instead of threatening neighbors with petty vandalism if they don’t fork over the treats, this holiday takes a much more wholesome approach. Icelandic children must earn their candy by singing a song. In keeping with the theme of Ash Wednesday, children collect ashes in a small bag, an “öskupokur”, and as a prank, try to secretly pin it onto someone’s clothes. Öskudagur is also noticeably different from Halloween in that only children participate, so don’t expect to see half-naked college chicks dressed as naughty nurses.
So celebrate life and eat to excess! Bolludagur, Sprengidagur, and Öskudagur will surely leave you satisfied… and feeling very, very full.
Pic nabbed from Ísafjörður’s finest news source, bb.is.