Halloween has not been traditionally celebrated in Iceland, but that has changed. Near the end of October, you can find Halloween decorations on the houses around Reykjavík, and the local grocery stores stock up on pumpkins whose only purpose is to be carved and left on the porch to rot.
Children dress up for Halloween-themed parties at their schools, and they can now be found wandering their neighbourhoods asking for candy on October 31st. The city of Reykjavík even got involved, creating a programme for children. The Árbær Open Air Museum will also host a Halloween party for kids under 12 this year.
Adults and young people use the American holiday as an excuse to dress up and party. In fact, Icelanders put a fun twist on the name of the holiday itself, calling it Hallóvín, which literally translates as ‚Hello, wine.’ Local bars may host parties and costume contests, while the cinemas dust off old horror classics to get everyone in a spooky mood.
Öskudagur – Ash Wednesday
One of the reasons Halloween took so long to catch on in Iceland is because there was already a holiday in which children dressed up and ate sweets, celebrated in spring, not in October
Many catholic countries have a tradition of a carnival before the beginning of lent. While Iceland hasn’t been Catholic since 1550 AD, Icelanders aren’t known for saying no to a good party and have their own, somewhat distorted version of a carnival. Monday before lent is Bolludagur, or Bun Day, celebrated with copious amounts of cream-filled pastries. Shrove Tuesday is celebrated with a meal of salt lamb and split pea soup and Ash Wednesday, although traditionally a solemn occasionin the Catholic tradition, is when children dress up in costumes and go door to door asking for treats in exchange for a song. The event is a relatively modest affair centred on children’s entertainment, lacking the decorative opulence and tinge of horror we’ve come to enjoy from the American feast.
Double the Candy
Like Halloween in the U.S., Öskudagur for children has lost any religious affiliation. The children still dress up, but they now venture into the neighbourhoods and to local shops asking for sweets. But unlike Halloween, they had to earn their treats, typically by singing a song.
As the American tradition continues to grow in popularity, Icelandic children now have the possibility to dress up in costume and gather as much candy as they can get their hands on twice a year! While parents and dentists may not be thrilled, most kids are happy with the results.