As in most countries, Easter in Iceland is an interesting mix of a religious and pagan holiday. The holiday is a jumble of spring decorations, confirmations (a Christian rite of passage), easter eggs and laws requiring people to take holy days off. In order to make life a bit easier for you, here are the days of Easter in Iceland explained.
Pálmasunnudagur – Palm Sunday
This is a popular day for confirmations, and since most people know at least one 14-year-old, many Icelanders will be attending confirmation parties in honour of the teenager that will soon be stepping into the adult world. They’ll usually spend this day trying to remember the name of all their family members and gorging themselves on cakes decorated with whipped cream, bread casseroles and the traditional confirmation party centrepiece, the kransakaka. The Kransakaka, or wreath cake is a marzipan-flavoured tower of a cake decorated with white glaze and chocolate.
Skírdagur – Maundy Thursday
This is an official holiday and the first of the five-day weekend that is Easter vacation in Iceland. It’s another popular day for confirmations and confirmation parties. The confirmation is a religious ceremony, but in recent years, secular confirmations are becoming more popular. Instead of confirming their Christian beliefs, the confirmees will instead vow to live their lives morally, and still get a party thrown in their honour.
Föstudagurinn langi – Good Friday
Good Friday is traditionally supposed to be a day of solemn contemplation, so fun and games are not only discouraged, they’re actually illegal. Enthusiasm for observing this holiday so religiously (pun intended) has somewhat waned in the past years, especially since people were getting annoyed that everything was closed that day. The Icelandic atheist society hosts an annual game of bingo in front of the parliament building in protest since bingo is one of the games specifically mentioned in the laws banning fun on Good Friday.
Páskadagur – Easter Sunday
The most important part of the Easter celebrations takes place on Easter Sunday morning when people look for their Easter eggs. Some families plan elaborate Easter egg hunts with a trail of clues leading to the chocolaty prize, others are content to just hide the eggs. For most people, celebrations consist of eating copious amounts of chocolate, followed by family dinners where lamb is served.
Annar í páskum – The Second Day of Easter
This day actually has no significance and no traditions. It’s just an extra official holiday for people to finish what’s left of their Easter eggs (or recover from eating a whole Easter egg the day before).