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Icelandic Carnival! (Sort of)

Öskudagur - “Icelandic Carnival!” (Sort of)
Bolludagur - “Icelandic Carnival!” (Sort of)

Bolludagur

Cream Puff day

“Bolludagur” is the first in the row of three peculiar holidays that together constitute “Icelandic Carnival.” The name roughly translates to “Cream Puff Day” in English. It falls on Monday six weeks before Easter so the actual date changes every year. Bakers from Denmark or Norway introduced the custom to Icelanders in the middle of the nineteenth century. It’s those people we have to thank for bringing us the delicious Bolludagsbolla.

Bolla is a word used in Iceland for all sorts of round breads, sweet or savoury. The Bolludagsbolla, however is something special. It’s a glorious choux pastry bun traditionally filled with jam and whipped cream and topped with a chocolate glaze, although in later years bakers have been experimenting with all sorts of fillings. It can be made at home or bought from a bakery and its only flaw is … that it’s only served on Bolludagur.

Eating the Bollur (the plural form) is great, but that’s not the only thing this day is about. See, the tradition dictates you can’t buy your own Bolla, you have to get someone to buy it for you. If you manage to spank someone before they get up in the morning, they owe you a Bolla. Children all over Iceland arm themselves with a “Bolludagsvöndur” (a paper paddle specially made for the occasion) on the Sunday before Bolludagur. When they wake up the following day, they creep into their parents’ room and spank them repeatedly while yelling “Bolla!” over and over again. Doesn’t that just sound like a great way to start your Monday morning?

Want to make your own Bollur? Here’s a recipe!

Recipe for Vatnsdeigsbollur (Cream Puffs)

  • 4 dl water
  • 160g margarine
  • 250g flour
  • ¼ teaspoon baking powder
  • 5 eggs

We start by mixing water with butter in a pot, bringing it to boil. Add the flour and baking powder and mix fiercely, until the mixture gathers up in a ball of dough when you stir it. Remove from heat and let cool for a while. Add the eggs, one by one, stirring well in between each one. Pipe the dough on a baking sheet (or spoon it on if you’re not that fussy about their shape), and be careful to keep a good space between them, the puff part of the name is there for a reason. Bake for 30-35 minutes at 210°c or until golden brown. Be careful not to open the oven before you think the puffs are ready! The outer crust must be well baked so the puffs hold their structure and don’t collapse in on themselves.

For the perfect, Icelandic Bolla, fill the puff with jam and whipped cream and top it with chocolate. If you’re feeling adventurous, fill them with whatever you like! Caramel pudding, Ice cream, and Nutella all spring to mind.
Good luck!

This brilliant recipe is borrowed from www.eldhus.is and the sender is Linda. We recommend that website for an array of nice Icelandic recipes.

Sprengidagur

Eat-till-You-Burst Day

Saltkjöt og Baunir - “Icelandic Carnival!” (Sort of)Sprengidagur is Iceland’s version of Mardi Gras. We celebrate it by eating as much as we can, of, corned (salt-preserved) lamb (sometimes horse) and split pea soup. It’s delicious! This holiday falls on the Tuesday after Bolludagur. On Sprengidagur, every Icelandic home as well as most restaurants are flooded with the aroma of salted meat and peas. Why is it called Exploding Day? You should eat until you feel like you’re about to explode (think Monty Python’s Mr. Creosote). Rembember, this comes just after a day dedicated to stuffing your face with an obscene amount of cream puffs.

Like I said, Lent is not something we actually observe, not anymore at least, but for some reason we still have a special day for filling up on treats before Lent. It’s basically a celebration of gluttony, so enjoy it with us. Go to the nearest restaurant and ask if they’re serving saltkjöt. If they don’t, there’s probably another one close by that is.

Öskudagur - “Icelandic Carnival!” (Sort of)

Öskudagur

Ash Wednesday

Ash Wednesday is, in most countries, a solemn day. It’s the first day of Lent, and the fast that comes with it, and people give up something they enjoy in order to remember Jesus’s 40 days in the desert. In Iceland, however, children dress up in costumes and sing songs for candy. It’s sort of like the Icelandic version of Halloween, without the pagan undertones. The children only beg for candy in shops and businesses (In Reykjavík and the bigger towns, at least) so Laugavegur and the shopping malls are filled with kids of all ages in costumes of all shapes and sizes. The children are expected to earn their candy by singing a song, a tradition that excites the young ones, but most adults dread it, especially those working in commerce.

If by any chance you are traveling to Iceland with a child, you might want to look into this. If not, keep this in mind when picking a day to go grocery shopping. Öskudagur is always a Wednesday, so this is mostly for children, not adults, and it’s celebrated with candy, not alcohol.