Easter is a big deal in Iceland. Part of the appeal of the annual holiday is the five-day weekend Icelanders get to celebrate it. The other part is the copious amounts of chocolate that we’re practically required to eat – don’t fight it – over the course of those five days. Here are some tips for celebrating Easter in true Icelandic fashion.
Keep it casual
Easter celebrations in Iceland are far more laid back than pomp and circumstance surrounding Christmas. Gone is the stress of gift-giving, endless parties and multiple family obligations. Instead, Icelanders enjoy the aforementioned five-day weekend doing whatever strikes their fancy while eating their weight in chocolate.
Eat the chocolate
Speaking of chocolate… it’s not that long ago that Easter eggs became a thing in Iceland. They weren’t introduced in the country until the beginning of the 20th century. But chocolate Easter eggs have since become so popular that Icelanders buy (and, most importantly, eat) more than 100 tonnes of chocolate in Easter egg form every year. And let us remind you that the population of Iceland is a mere 366,000. That’s a lot of chocolate!
Icelandic Easter eggs come in a range of sizes – they’re numbered, like clothing sizes – with the largest typically found on store shelves weighing in at 1.3 kg. Again: that’s a lot of chocolate!
What’s more, is each egg is broken open to reveal a proverb (just like a fortune cookie) and – wait for it – more candy and chocolate! Despite the lure of the Icelandic candy, the proverb is what most people look for before digging into all the sweets.
Hit the road
Many Icelanders use the long weekend to travel within Iceland or abroad. Those with families in other villages in the country may go there for a visit. Others head for the Alps for a ski holiday or elsewhere in Europe for a city break. And others still will flock to the West Fjörds town of Ísafjörður where the Aldrei fór ég suður (which tanslates to “I never went south”) music festival is held each year on Easter. The free concert is such a popular Easter staple that it’s broadcast on TV for those who didn’t make it to Ísafjörður to join the party.
Decorate with chickens
The Easter Bunny isn’t a character from Icelandic lore, so Easter is instead synonymous with chickens and fluffy little baby chicks. Let’s be honest, that makes a lot more sense than a bunny delivering eggs.
Easter chick ornaments can be bought almost everywhere in the leadup to Easter, and playschool-aged children will be churning out chick-themed crafts to bring home to fawning parents, no matter how little they actually resemble chicks or any other animal in existence. The favourite Easter chick of Icelanders, however, is the little figurine that comes atop their chocolate Easter egg each year.
In addition to chickens and chicks, many people decorate their houses for Easter in shades of yellow and green. The decorations are connected with the coming of spring. A popular way to decorate is to cut a bouquet of branches from a bush or a tree, and put them in a vase with water. The branches will start sprouting leaves in the warmth of the home, even though the trees outside will remain bare for a few more weeks. Heck, you can even hang chick ornaments and chocolates on the branch to dial your Easter decor up to 11.
Roast some lamb
Lamb is the centrepiece of the traditional Icelandic Easter dinner table. And it’s no surprise, really; Icelandic lamb is plentiful, high quality, and beloved by the nation.
There’s not one specific lamb dish that is particularly traditional on Easter, though a classic roast leg of lamb is a popular choice. A wholesome cut of Icelandic lamb is a welcome savoury relief from a day spent eating yourself into a sugar coma.
Check the opening hours
The times have been changing as more and more tourists visit our fair shores year-round, so more and more shops, attractions and restaurants stay open over the Easter weekend. Still, Good Friday, Easter Sunday and Easter Monday are “red days” (official holidays) on the Icelandic calendar, so some places may be closed. It’s always wise to check ahead of time, rather than walking or driving somewhere only to be greeted by a CLOSED sign.
With all this in mind, you’re ready to celebrate Easter in Iceland. Gleðilega páska!