Text by: Samantha Bazely
As the days finally start to lighten, the springtime celebrations kick off this week (February 23, 2020). Konudagur, Bolludagur, Sprengidagur and Öskudagur are the 4 days that make up this unique week. While they aren’t “bank holidays” meaning business still operates as usual, locals are still fully participating in the events.
So, when are these days and what do they mean?
Konudagur is the first event of the week. It takes place on Sunday, first day of Góa (which is the second to last winter month). The equivalent of Bóndadagur, or Farmers Day, where women celebrate and pamper their husbands, now it´s the ladies turn to be pampered by their families. In many homes it typically means the husband will cook a nice dinner, give their wives a break, and often times have a nice bouquet of spring flowers on the table. With only brighter days ahead of us as we head full strength into spring, be sure to thank the woman in your life and welcome Góa into your house.
Bolludagur is next in the lineup. Directly translated into “Bun Day,” Bolludagur is one of my favourite days. Often celebrated in bakeries the entire weekend leading up to Bolludagur itself, which is Monday, it´s one of the tastiest holidays here in Iceland. It kicks off the week leading into Ash Wednesday which means the date changes from year to year. In 2020, we celebrate Bolludagur on February 24. So, what exactly is a Bolla? They are a coveted Choux pastry sandwiched with whipped cream and various fillings. The most traditional that I have seen are whipped cream, with strawberry jam, topped with a glazed chocolate. The various bakeries around Iceland will always have their own variations. Here in Stykkishólmur the common staples are whipped cream, topped with fresh fruit and powdered sugar, salted caramel, and even Irish cream! You won’t be disappointed whatever Bolla should you choose, there is something for everyone.
Sprengidagur can be translated into Bursting Day. As the last day before the start of lent it is expected that you will overeat on the delicious traditional meal of the day. Typically, Icelanders will eat a soup filled with lentils and salted meat (saltkjöt og baunir). As lent brings on different forms of fasting, it is expected that many people will take full advantage of the holiday and eat themselves to the point of bursting, which brings on the name bursting day.
Öskudagur is a day when you will see littles dressed up in fun costumes. While it has similarity to a traditional Halloween, there is more of a history behind the day. As Ash Wednesday, the first day of Lent, the tradition dates back many years. Traditionally, young girls would try to pin bags of Ash to the backs of the boy that they fancied without them noticing. The boys would do the same, but with small bags of pebbles. Nowadays, the children dress up in costume go around from store to store singing songs in hopes of receiving candy.
While many of the traditions of Iceland date back to the early days of settlement here, it is interesting to see them evolve and change as the generations pass. Although the activities of the days may change, locals are still well aware of the history and meaning behind the days. This means that while the days themselves may shift (moving from pinning bags of ash to dressing up and singing for candy), it doesn’t mean the traditions are lost. The history is still being shared taught within the families. So, if you find yourself in Iceland the week leading up to Ash Wednesday, be sure to take part in the local traditions. Celebrate the women, fill yourself on tasty pastry and traditional soup, and be sure to watch for local children running around in costumes! We look forward to celebrating with you.