Ostensibly a religious holiday, today Icelanders around the country will enjoy these sweet, rich pastries as a part of a pan-Scandinavian tradition.
Bolludagur, or Cream Puff Day, is held every year in Iceland seven weeks before Easter. Celebrating it is easy enough: simply go to your local bakery and buy some bollur; puff pastries filled with jam and whipped cream, and typically topped with chocolate. While traditionally there have only been two types sold – choux pastry or leavened pastry – today, bakeries in Iceland attempt to outdo themselves with ever more creative variations involving different types of fillings and toppings.
The tradition itself is a relatively new arrival in Iceland – the first mention of bolludagur in print dates back only to 1915 – but it stems from a much older Scandinavian tradition called fastelavn.
Fastelavn is in fact characteristic of the Lutheran faith in general. While Iceland’s bollur can be traced back to Norway and Denmark, in Denmark this tradition has the added fun of what is known as “slå katten af tønden”, or “hitting the cat of the barrel”. This involves a pinata-like barrel of candy with the image of a cat on it that is beaten with sticks. In the olden days, an actual black cat would be put inside the barrel, but that tradition is fortunately frowned upon today.
Bolludagur is the first holiday in a string of three to kick of Lent, the others being Sprengidagur and Öskudagur. More on those holidays tomorrow and the day after. Stay tuned!