Öskudagur Festivities Persevere on a Cold Spring Day

öskudagur iceland

Öskudagur, or Ash Wednesday, is an important holiday in Iceland. Like many holidays, it originated in the Catholic Church, but has taken on a life of its own in recent years. 

The traditional start of lent, Öskudagur takes place seven weeks before Easter. As such, it takes place on different days each year, falling between February 4 and March 10. To mark the beginning of the traditional fasting season, Icelanders indulge in choux pastry buns known as bollur the day before.

The celebrations over time have also evolved to include what is now known as Maskadagur, or Mask Day, when children dress up. In many ways, this holiday resembles Halloween, with children going between different stores on Laugavegur and singing for candy and treats.

The weather in Reykjavík today wasn’t the best, so children throughout the city headed to malls instead. 

Another notable tradition this time of year relates to the wands children make on Bolladagur. It is believed that the tradition originated with a wand used by a priest to spread ashes on churchgoers on Ash Wednesday. During the Reformation in Iceland, the more dour Catholic traditions slowly changed into an occasion for fun and mischief.