Iceland’s Answer To Halloween: Öskudagur

Öskudagur, ashes day, Icelandic halloween
Celebrating Öskudagur in 1959. Photo: Þjóðminjasafn Íslands

Öskudagur, or Ashes day, is the third in the row of the unusual holidays in Iceland. First we had Bolludagur and yesterday Sprengidagur (read all about those here and here!) was celebrated.

Öskudagur, in some ways resembles Halloween. Children dress up in costumes and sing songs in exchange for candy in shops and companies around the country. Many schools and kindergartens celebrate with a ball where the children take turns hitting a barrel filled with candy until it bursts. Which is exactly what is happening in the photo above captured in 1959.

Another part of the Icelandic Öskudagur was the tradition of attaching small bags filled with ash to people without them noticing. This tradition of hanging bags of ashes on people can be traced back to the 18th century. Now the day mainly revolves around getting dressed up in costumes and singing songs in exchange candy!

Traditional Icelandic bags of ash.
Photo: Þjóðminjasafn Íslands

Photo credit: Þjóðminjasafn Íslands – link to original photos here and here.