Over-indulgers delight: today, March 3, 2014, is Bolludagur, or bun day, an ostensibly lenten holiday in which all Icelanders are encouraged to eat their weight in vatnsdeigsbollur, cream-filled choux buns.
Known as Shrove or Callop Monday in other countries, Bun Day is celebrated on the Monday before Lent (seven weeks before Easter) and kicks off a spree of extravagance including Sprengidagur, or ‘Bursting Day,’ on Tuesday, (Iceland’s answer to Mardi Gras, with presumably less nudity), and Öskudagur on Wednesday (Iceland’s answer to Halloween).
This trio of holidays harkens back prior to Iceland’s conversion to Lutheranism in the mid-16th century, when the country was still Catholic. As with carnival celebrations around the world, the idea was to cram in as much last-minute excess before Easter-season fasting began.
On the morning of Bun Day, children are encouraged to wake their parents early in the morning by smacking them with homemade decorated paddles and yelling “bolla, bolla, bolla!” For every whack they get in before their parents rise, they’re supposed to be rewarded with an extra cream bun. Bakeries around the country prepare a dazzling array of bun varieties in anticipation of the holiday, with some locations selling hundreds of buns in just one day. But many families choose to make these buns at home from scratch which is not difficult to replicate if, for instance, you don’t live in Iceland.
See here and here for two easy vatnsdeigsbollur recipes. (For the best results, don’t open the oven for about half an hour after the buns are done cooking—just turn off the heat and let the buns sit and dry out in the center. Otherwise, they may fall, which is a bit sad.)
If you’re not too stuffed tomorrow and are ready for round two, try this recipe for saltkjöt og baunir, or salted lamb and pea soup, which is the traditional meal served on Bursting Day.