Sunday, April 12, 2009

Easter in Iceland

Easter in Iceland

In Icelandic Easter is páskar. The Sunday before Easter is Palm Sunday (Palmasunnudagur). This is to celebrate the day that Jesus entered Jerusalem and people gathered to greet him with palm leaves. The following Thursday is Sheer Day, also called Maundy Thursday (Skirdagur). This is the day of the Last Supper, the day that Jesus washed the feet of his disciples. The word sheer originally meant "pure" and refers (in this case) to the purification of the soul. This also became the day that one would bathe after the sackcloth and ashes of Lent. Sheer day is celebrated much like Easter, with a special breakfast and church services. Most businesses run on their Sunday schedule, or are closed. The next day is Good Friday, or Long Friday (Fostudagurinn langi). This day commemorates the day that Christ spent on the cross. The term Long Friday; therefore, refers to the feeling that suffering passes slowly. Children are traditionally forbidden to play, and some families spank there children this day for all the sins the have committed and not been punished for. All businesses are closed.

It is customary in Iceland for families to get together and enjoy a family lunch or dinner during the Easter holidays. There is no tradition of the Easter bunny – it is not known in Iceland (nor is there any understanding of the connection between rabbits and eggs!), and therefore Easter egg hunts are unknown as well. Nonetheless, children are given chocolate Easter eggs on Easter Sunday, from their parents and grandparents. The chocolate eggs are often hallow and come in different sizes, and contain sweets and a note with a saying on it. The big ones are decorated with a bow, and a chick sits on top. The eggs are made of delicious creamy chocolate, and of course everyone would like to get Easter eggs as big as possible.

The Icelandic Easter tradition is young, since the date of Easter was too early in the calendar to be considered a spring festival. The arrival of spring was celebrated on a later date, on sumardagurinn fyrsti, literally the first day of summer. Presents were distributed and people symbolically began with their spring work. There is no school on sumardagurinn fyrsti.

No comments: