Easter In Iceland

Traditional Icelandic easter eggs from candy factory Freyja! Photo: Freyja (freyja.is)

Have you ever wondered how Icelanders spend Easter? On the face of it, its not that much different from other places. However, as usual, there are always some Icelandic twists thrown in to keep it interesting! 

Maundy Thursday (Skírdagur)marks the beginning of Easter which in 2018 falls on March 29th and ends on Easter Monday (Annar í páskum) falling on April 2nd. It’s a nice, long, 5 day weekend which many people use to escape the city and retreat to their summerhouses. Some will even leave the country altogether.

You Must Be Miserable! Not So Much Anymore

Some traditions remain, other have thankfully died out. For example, Maundy Thursday is a popular day to be confirmed, although these are on the decline. Instead, a secular confirmation is increasing in popularity where the confirmed vow to lead a moral life.

Good Friday here in Iceland is known as “föstudagurinn langi” or  “the long friday”.  Fun was illegal. This mostly revolved around the vices: betting, drinking alcohol, having parties, laughing. Yes, even laughing wasn’t allowed.

The strict rules are no more thank goodness, but some businesses will be closed or have reduced hours on Good Friday and Easter Sunday at the very least. So get your shopping in before its too late!

From Jesus To Chocolate

Easter is supposed to be about Jesus, his death (hence Long Friday) and subsequent resurrection (Easter Sunday). For many Icelanders these days, and indeed most people everywhere, it’s less about Jesus and more about chocolate. Iceland has an incredibly sweet tooth, and this becomes extremely clear at Easter!

Every country has its easter egg quirks and Iceland is no different. Easter eggs in Iceland never come in boxes, and always come in plastic. They come with phrases and saying inside, like fortune cookies or Christmas crackers! The sayings themselves can be on the complex side, and becomes an inter-generational thing where the adults of the family will read out and explain the sayings to the children.

A few Icelandic proverbs you could find in an Icelandic easter egg (for more examples – click here!):

Brennt barn forðast eldinn – The burnt child fears the fire.
Ber er hver að baki nema sér bróður eigi – Bare is the back of a brotherless man.
Hver er sinnar gæfu smiður – Every man is the smith of his own fortune.
Sjaldan er ein báran stök – There seldom is a single wave.
Árinni kennir illur ræðari – A bad rower blames the oar.

The chocolate manufacturers in Iceland take filling easter eggs up very seriously, they spare no expense and pull out all the stops. You won’t see a simple little bag of chocolate buttons for example; think liquorice (Icelanders LOVE liquorice), gummy bears, caramels, salty liquorice chocolate caramels and so much more we couldn’t even begin to list them all!

Easter Sunday celebrations involve egg decoration, painting, and parents hiding eggs for their children to find (egg hunt) and there are often large family meals on Easter Sunday with lamb often being the meat of choice.

Annar Í Páskum: The Second Day Of Easter

Easter Monday is a day of recovery from the overeating and immense sugar overload from the previous day. It is basically just another day off, but who’s complaining?

A New Light, A New Time: Adventure Awaits!

Iceland starts to come alive in Easter. Spring around the corner, not quite in the air, but already a lot is changing; the darkness of winter is far behind us and there is comfortably more than 12 hours of daylight. In fact on Easter Sunday there is a full 13 hours and 33 minutes of daylight to enjoy!

The new light and rising temperatures embolden us with a sense of adventure and we can’t wait for summer! Gleðilega páska!