Easter in Iceland

Photo from Freyja.is

Easter in Iceland is a nice long weekend that starts on Maundy Thursday (Skírdagur) and ends on Easter Monday (Annar í páskum). Most people are off work during those days and all schools are shut, so many people decide to leave town with family or friends to enjoy the holiday somewhere else.

Easter traditions in Iceland

Lutheran confirmations
Most Icelanders belong to the Lutheran Church of Iceland and Lutheran confirmations are a longstanding tradition in Iceland. Easter is a popular time for confirmations, where the 14-year-olds confirm their faith in God and afterwards family and friends come together to celebrate that the teenager will soon be coming an adult.

Easter Sunday
Easter Sunday is the most important day of the Easter celebration in Iceland, when people can finally enjoy their Easter eggs. The Easter eggs in Iceland are special, it’s a chocolate goodness with a little chicks on the top and filled with sweets, like caramels, chocolate candy, gummy bears, liquorice and more. Also inside of each egg there is a piece of paper with a fortune or a proverb on it. Sometimes it can be hard to make sense of the proverb even if you are an Icelander. For many families it is a traditions to hide the eggs and go on a egg hunt. You can buy the Easter eggs in every supermarket in Iceland.

In the evening there is usually a large family dinner that consists of a Icelandic lamb with potatoes and gravy.

Many people in Iceland also go to church during the Easter and most churches will have a few services over the holiday. Check out the opening hours at Hallgrímskirkja Church if you are staying in Reykjavik during Easter. 

Opening Hours

Most stores and other places are closed during the Easter days in Iceland but most restaurants and bars will stay open. Bars and nightclubs are all closed though for 24 hours on Good Friday and Easter Sunday, because fun and drinking is actually illegal by law during those days!

Find out more about opening hours in Reykjavik here. 

The Holy Week

Pálmasunnudagur - Palm Sunday
The first day of the Holy Week is called Palm Sunday or Pálmasunnudagur in Icelandic. That's when Jesus rode into Jerusalem on the back of a donkey and people celebrated him by waving palm fronds and praised him as a king and a savior. Pálmasunnudagur is a popular day in Iceland for confirmations.

Skírdagur - Maundy Thursday
Skírdagur or Maundy Thursday is when Jesus had the Last Supper with his disciples and washed their feet. Later Jesus was betrayed by Judas and sentenced to death. It is also the first day of the long five day weekend and usually when people leave town for a vacation. Many Icelanders go away for the weekend and spend the weekend at their summer house, abroad, skiing, visiting family outside their hometown or just enjoying the time off from work.

Föstudagurinn Langi or Good Friday
Jesus is nailed to a cross and asks his father, God, why he has forsaken him before he dies. In Iceland most places are closed on Good Friday and according to law it is illegal to have fun. Don’t worry though, in the past years this tradition has somewhat waned. Places like Hotels and other accommodations, grocery stores and restaurants are now open. Bars and nightclubs open at midnight.

Dagur Þagnarinnar - Holy Saturday
Jesus lay in his tomb with a large stone in front of the door and a guard outside so no one would steal the body. It’s the day of vigil and prayer for Christians.

Páskadagur - Easter Sunday
Jesus resurrected from death, he had risen from the tomb. He told his disciples to baptize and teach others, he also promised to always be with them. This is the day when people can finally enjoy their Easter eggs.

Annar í páskum - Easter Monday
Easter Monday is just an extra holiday that people use to relax and eat more chocolate.

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