Festivals and holidays are a thing of joy in every country. People leave behind their worries and just immerse themselves in fun and food for a few days. Apart from the usual things, have you ever heard of any country having a separate lingo for a festival? That is the kind of excitement Icelanders have for Easter. This festival is joyous in every country but for Icelanders it is special. Fun and fervor take over the citizens of Iceland during this religious festival. Almost a week-long celebrations take place on this national holiday.
Explorers visit Iceland during the time of Easter to witness the natural spring shimmer of the country and taste the flavor of the festival. People hold it close to their hearts because of its fun factor and religious sentiments associated with it. One needs to have a jam-packed plan to fully enjoy Easter in Iceland. There are music festivals and games that will be remembered for life. Let us find out more about this vibrant occasion.
Days of Festivities
• Palm Sunday- A Step into Adulthood
This is an important day for teenagers as they go through civil or religious confirmation. Also called Pálmasunnudagur, this initiation to adulthood is celebrated with friends and family. The special significance is attached to it because the belief is that it strengthens one’s relationship with God. You can hit a confirmation party on this day if you have befriended some locals on your trip and they have invited you to their party. You can indulge in delicacies and cakes adorned with whipped cream, bread casseroles, and the kransakaka. Kransakaka is the traditional centerpiece for a confirmation party, a marzipan-flavored tower cake that you can relish on.
• Maundy Thursday- A Holy Beginning
Marking the beginning of Easter, Maundy Thursday is another popular confirmation day when the occasion of entering adulthood is celebrated. It commemorates the Last Supper of Jesus Christ with his 13 apostles. The days preceding Maundy Thursday are apt for tourists to explore the country. The preceding Wednesday is considered a weekend in the country since people do not have to go to the workplace the next day. You can visit the bars late until 03:00 or 04:30 in the morning, otherwise, bars usually close at 01:00 AM on weekdays. Reykjavík offers an eclectic and exciting nightlife that travelers from all over the world come to experience around this time in Iceland. Most of the shops stay closed until Saturday. So it is always recommended to get all essentials beforehand. You can visit various swimming pools in Reykjavík, open to the public on Maundy Thursday.
• Good Friday- A Pious Day
Good Friday is traditionally and lawfully received as a day for solemn contemplation. Hence, activities such as dancing, gambling, drinking, or going to the cinema which signifies extravagance are strictly prohibited. These activities are considered illegal and bars close at midnight on Maundy Thursday and do not open again until Good Friday is over, exactly after a day. Over the years, such strictness about banning all the games and closing everything has annoyed people. The Icelandic atheists host a game of Good Friday bingo in the square Austurvöllur in Downtown Reykjavík. You can participate in this rebellious display in front of the parliament building especially because it is free to play. If you are lucky, you can also win prizes. All stores stay close on Friday, so stocking up the essentials is highly advisable. You can head to the bars and clubs after Midnight on Good Friday to experience the euphoric nightlife of the city. This is a good chance to befriend some urbane locals, who can always help you navigate through the city better.
In between Saturday: This is an apt name for the Saturday between Good Friday and Easter Sunday. People usually spend their time bombarding the stores while they’re open. You should expect long lines if you plan to visit the stores on Saturday.
• Easter Sunday- A Caravan of Celebration
Chocolate can be another name of Easter in Iceland. Easter Sunday is a crucial part of Easter celebrations. The thrill of looking for Easter eggs is similar for everyone, whether it is a child or an adult. In Iceland, you will find Easter eggs of the highest quality. You can visit any store or supermarket to find beautifully decorated Easter eggs. Icelanders consume copious amounts of chocolate around this time, all adorned with tiny chicks, rabbits, and fake flowers. The Easter eggs are filled with candy on the inside and coated with mouth-watering chocolate on the outside. Recently, Easter egg hunts are commonly planned by some families. They are for kids to find their chocolate egg that consists of a proverb, explained by older members. Prepared at home, roasted leg of a lamb is served as lunch or dinner on Easter. Bars get opened only after midnight and close as soon as the sun rises. Easter does not mean you have to spend the holiday as a dry day. You can head to the bars and dance your way out of Easter.
• Easter Monday- Day to Cope from Festive Fever
Also called Annar í Páskum, Easter Monday does not have the same religious significance as the other days. Icelandic citizens spend this day mostly resting. Festivals are fun but they can give you a tiresome time, so this is the day you can spend lazing around. It is treated as a bonus free day for schools and offices. You can visit swimming pools which are generally open. Supermarkets also open for a few hours.
Easter in Iceland- A Tourist Section
Many desire to see Iceland during Easter. After all, the vibrant atmosphere takes the heart into its wake but what can you do around this time? Let’s find the answer to this.
- Tasting the Delicacies: Imagine you visit Iceland and don’t taste the lamb. Almost every steakhouse in the country sells Icelandic Lamb Meat. Roasted lamb leg is a designated Easter dish that you will savor. Chefs in Iceland love making and serving this traditional dish. A traditional dinner in Iceland on Easter Sunday also involves a roasted leg of lamb called “Easter Leg”, along with sugar-glazed potatoes and gravy.
- Egging the Easter: Another thing that you must have is an Icelandic Easter Egg, which came a hundred years back. More than a million eggs are produced in Iceland every year. Considered a symbol of fertility, Icelandic eggs are replicas of ostrich eggs. Though, they come in multiple sizes and are available in various kinds of chocolate. A tiny note with a wise Icelandic proverb or a popular belief written on it stays hidden in every Easter egg. People get most excited about that thing, despite the delicious candies. The Easter egg in Iceland was made in 1920 for the first time, by Björnsbakarí bakery. The egg contains candy as the main ingredient. An interesting fact about Easter eggs is that before 1970 importing candy was illegal in Iceland, except on a few occasions. When the country finally joined the European Free Trade Association or EFTA, imports became legal. Since before 1970, candy is majorly manufactured on a local basis.
- The Craze of Icelandic Easter Beer: More than 20 new breweries in Iceland started there ever since the ban on the drink lifted in 1989. It took some a while before local brewers could finally stand but when they did the land of fire and ice finally tasted some beer. There are new and innovative recipes that these bars like to experiment with, using Icelandic ingredients. This intrigues food lovers when they visit Iceland. A lot of edible experiments happen in the country, inspired by Icelandic culture, whether it’s food or drinks. Easter, New Year’s Eve, and Christmas are a couple of occasions when bars offer special menus. If you visit around Easter, pick one of the specialty brews, formulated specifically for the eve.
The hype for the drink is uproariously high, so much so that breweries announce ‘Easter beers’ every year around the middle of February. Wherever you are staying, you just have to visit the local liquor store/bar and look for ‘Paskabjor’. It is one of the most popular Easter beers all over Iceland. The staff will immediately show up with some more local brews. Just like Christmas beers, these beers are also a bit darker and involve some chocolate elements. Chocolate plays an important role in the Icelandic Easter celebration. With a dash of medium bitterness and distinct flavors of coffee and caramel, the drink will rush through your veins and energize you. Reykjavík Beer Tour, which provides ten Icelandic beers to taste, is a treat for beer lovers and enthusiasts. You will have nice surprises digging into Easter beers in Iceland.
- Stop by A Local Chocolate Factory: Globetrotters who are interested in the subject often stop at a chocolate factory to know what is so special about Iceland’s chocolate. If you further want to explore the chocolate industry, there are guided tours available. The Omnom Chocolate Factory is situated in the Grandi neighborhood in downtown Reykjavík. This Icelandic chocolate factory has achieved numerous awards for its lip-smacking chocolates. They presently offer tours for visitors to have a look at their factory. You can learn about the chocolate-making craft in the country which includes things like the cocoa pod and the chocolate bar. A peek into the luxury chocolate scene, this tour will provide you with some interesting anecdotes about chocolate in Iceland. You can taste all of Omnom’s wares as an added perk.
- Music Festivals during Easter: Iceland is a country that openly celebrates culture. You cannot miss out on a few things if you come here on a tour, music festivals are one of those. The unmatched vibe of these festivals is pure bliss for music lovers. On your Easter tour, you can experience various talented composers performing live on these musical festivals that Iceland hosts. Aldrei fór ég suður or I Never Went South happens in Ísafjörður usually in the last week of March, just before Easter. This festival is great to delve into the preparations for Easter if you are looking to celebrate the traditional countryside way. Native singer-songwriter of Ísafjörður, Mugison founded this music festival in 2003, along with his father. The festival takes place in an old fish warehouse and local musicians, as well as popular bands from the south, get a chance to showcase their talent on this stage. The atmosphere is crowded but warm as the crowd encourages and supports all the artists.
Reykjavik Blues Festival takes place from mid-March to mid-April. It celebrates a genre close to everyone’s hearts- Blues. You can look forward to some amazing performances. The previous list includes performers like Joe Louis Walker, Strákarnir Hans Sævars, and Þorgrímur Toggi Jónsson. This is considered one of the most amazing music festivals because it hosts a cool after-party. This music festival is going to make your Easter a total fun pack.
- Iceland Winter Games: Iceland Winter Games is an event that will hook you up. Live games have a different kind of excitement. If you want to experience the adrenaline rush of it, head to Akureyri, the ski capital of Iceland. The competitors prepare for this mega event of the year which usually happens in the last week of March. Jaw-dropping spectacles are commonly seen during the Iceland Winter Games. Icelandic National Dog Sledging Championship and ski board & snowboard competitions are the highlights of the games. Sportspersons take on jumps carved from the snow like Icelandic volcanoes. These thrilling games are one of the biggest festivals in Europe. Outdoor and winter sport activity enthusiasts will have a mind-blasting time at winter games.
- An Ecstatic Tour around Iceland: One thing that is on the list of every explorer is the Golden Circle tour. The breathtaking views of Gullfoss waterfall are combined with the exquisite locales Geysir hot spring area at this tour. You can also enjoy the parliamentary plains of Þingvellir. A national park and historical location, Þingvellir is situated east of Reykjavík. It is easy to take out a day for this tour of the Golden Circle. Your eyes will be sparkled with the serene scenes of this tour.
If you want to have a soothing dip in a hot water spring, you can choose to visit the Blue Lagoon or the Secret Lagoon. Blue Lagoon has a luxury spa where you can pamper yourself for a day. There are many offers available for tourists which include welcome drinks, free wine, and complimentary massages. Secret Lagoon is a natural hot spring in the vicinity of Flúðir. To explorers’ advantage, you can experience the beauty of this lagoon while on your Golden Circle tour.
- Participate in an Easter-Egg Hunt: Every year, there is an Easter-egg hunt on the island of Viðey. It is near Reykjavík, so if you are in the area take part in this fun activity. Usually, it happens after Good Friday. After a long and cheerful hunt, conducted with the help of clues, you will be rewarded with a delicious surprise containing candies and a wise quote.
Things to Keep in Mind
- Opening hours should always be kept in check. Whether they are bars or departmental stores, Most of the places are closed on Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, as well as Easter Sunday & Monday, so if you are visiting Iceland around this time, you should always have detailed information about the places. While some shops open for a while, some stores do not open at all.
- Carry a camera with extra batteries. You will witness so many beautiful locales that clicking pictures is inevitable. It will be disappointing if you want to capture something amazing and your battery dies.
- Skiing is one of the favorite sports and popular pastimes of Icelanders during this time of the year. Many locals and tourists travel across the country to find the right slope during Easter break. You can rent the equipment for skiing, wherever there are designated places for the sport. Ensure that you bring your warm clothes.
- Make sure you pack warm clothes and sturdy boots. Although Easter time is relatively less cold than January and February, Iceland is an arctic country. As the weather improves and the days become longer, a festive aura can be felt in the air but the uncertainty looms about the weather always.