Reykjavik Excursions Blog
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Bolludagur, sprengidagur and öskudagur

8/2/2018 Blog

Bund-day, Explosion day and Ash Wednesday are for most children and many grown-ups three of the most fun days after Christmas and before Easter. Celebrations during the days just before and at the beginning of Lent is known all over the world, the most famous one probably Mardi Gras celebration in New Orleans. But this is how we in Iceland celebrate these three days – which have mostly lost its connection to Christianity.

Bolludagur – Bun-day
This day of pastries is celebrated on the Monday before Ash Wednesday. In Iceland, we celebrate it by eating copious amounts of pastry buns, filled with cream and jam, and topped with chocolate icing. Children either get or make their own “bolluvöndur”, a wooden stick with paper decoration on one end, which they use to spank their parents and demand buns by calling “bolla, bolla, bolla”.Back in the day, people dressed up on Bun-day and used the wooden stick on Ash Wednesday, but at some point, people started dressing up on Ash Wednesday and using the stick on Bun-day.Icelanders eat copious amounts of buns this day, either bought from bakeries or ones they bake themselves.

Sprengidagur – Explosion day
Shrove Tuesday, or Pancake day as it is called in the United Kingdom, is called Explosion day in Iceland. The reason for the name is that we eat a soup made of salted meat and lentil beans and eat it until we metaphorically explode. Other ingredients of the soup are swedes, potatoes, carrots and then whatever other vegetables you want to add.Another reason for the day is that it is the last day before Lent. Lent lasts from Ash Wednesday until Easter Sunday, and the institutional religious purpose of it is to heighten the annual commemoration of the life, death and resurrection of Jesus. Many religious people use Lent to repent as well as fast to replicate the sacrifice Jesus made during his 40 days stay in the desert. Others often fast due to health reasons.For most Icelanders, the day is not religious in nature.

Öskudagur – Ash Wednesday
The first day of Lent is celebrated with children getting the day off school, they dress up in costumes and go between shops and other companies to sing for candy.The name of the day comes from the custom of scattering ashes of blessed palm leaves over the heads of repenting churchgoers. A custom that has mostly died out in Iceland is the öskupoki, or ashbag, which was made from fabric scraps and children, and sometimes adults hung on unsuspecting strangers. The point was to get as many bags on a person as you could without them noticing. For the prank to be considered valid, the person on whom you hung your bag on would have to walk through three doorways. Originally, the bag or pouch had a little bit of ash in it or maybe a small rock.This is a custom not found in other countries, and it is a bit of a mystery from where it originated here. It is possible it is related to Catholicism where ash is believed to be powerful, and sometimes the ash in the bags was mixed with holy water.

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