Bolludagur, Sprengidagur and Öskudagur, the Traditions of Icelandic Lent

15. February 2021Culture
Shape bakarameistarinn.is
A Selection of Cream Buns available for Bolludagur by Bakarameistarinn

Bolla Bolla Bolla!

In Iceland, good food and even better company is a must when celebrating just about anything, and this is no exception on the run up to Lent.

This three-day celebration starts with Bolludagur, or Bun Day, where young children would decorate a short stick with colourful decoration to have their very own "bolludagsvöndur", or bun day wand. With this wand, they would playfully hit their parents screaming out "bolla, bolla, bolla!" or simply bun, bun, bun!

This playful exchange of whacking a grown up is rewarded with a delicious sweet treat, a cream bun filled with jam, topped with chocolate.

With bakeries all across the country offering these goods from the simple to the artisanal, to save some parents the hassle of making their own it is not uncommon to put in an advance order for these sought after goodies. It is commonly reported that an estimated one million Bolludagur buns are consumed each year, which is a lot considering a population of only 360,000!

A selection of Cream puff treats

Bursting at the Seams

Celebrated on Shrove Tuesday, day two of this food celebration is Sprengidagur, which literally means Explosion Day. This is not as explosive as it sounds, no fireworks or parades, but quite simply: Eat until you feel like you're about to explode, bursting at the seams!

"Eating what exactly?" is the question of the day for Sprengidagur; this dish consists of lentils, salted meat and hearty root vegetables, not too dissimilar to Icelandic meat soup. Quite simply it's a heart filled dish that you consume until you feel too full to function.

Shape Icelandic Roots
Traditional Icelandic Salted Meat Soup Dish

Dress to Impress

The first day of Lent brings with it the final day of celebration, Öskudagur, or Ash Wednesday. Young children get the day off school and put on their best fancy dress costume, then head off to the local stores, singing songs and showing their outfits in return of candy. This might sound like a version of Halloween, but this tradition is rooted in old Christian holiday celebrations originating from Denmark and Norway.

In the past, young women would try to pin little bags of ashes on the backs of a young man that may have caught their eye without being noticed, with young men doing the same in return, but with little pouches containing pebbles instead. This tradition has slowly faded out now that the young at heart have decided to join in the fun of fancy dress.

About the Author

Scott Hillen

Scott is originally from Scotland, previously working for a furniture manufacturers in Glasgow before moving to Iceland in 2017. He joined the IMG team in Summer 2018.

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