April 16, 2019

Easter in Iceland – Everything You Need to Know!

by Ragnheidur Harpa
Ragnheidur studied anthropology with a minor in media so it might not come as much of a surprise that she is curious about the nature. She loves educating others about her findings or her home country, Iceland. Ragnheidur is into country living, traveling, Icelandic horses, the Icelandic naming system, plants and all things having to do with food and beer. Her favorite places in Iceland are the Westfjords and the South Coast but she has lived in downtown Reykjavik for the last few years.
Easter in Iceland – Everything You Need to Know!

Easter is for most who celebrate it a religious holiday,  but Icelanders see it more as a time to feast and be with the ones we love. Our traditions orbit around being with friends and family and eating as much as we possibly can– this usually means eating our weight in roast lamb and chocolate! If you are planning to spend your Easter Holiday in Iceland,  we are here to guide you through it! There are so many great ways to “Icelandize” your Easter, and so many traditions you can easily adapt.  Let’s find out more!

Icelandic Easter Traditions

Easter Lily in Iceland

The Icelandic Easter Egg

The Chocolate Easter Eggs,  or Paskaegg  as they are called in Icelandic,  are a crucial part of the Icelandic Easter tradition. They come in sizes ranging  from 1 to 10 (see picture below),  and you can even get a family jumbo egg  to split with the lot. Nowadays you can buy Paskaegg  with shells made from all kinds of chocolates. They come in dark, light, white chocolate, and some of the chocolate shells  can even be even packed with licorice or popped rice. But the original egg is just plain milk chocolate.

The hollow chocolate eggs are then filled with candy, but the type of candy will depend on the chocolate company making the eggs. For instance, if you buy an egg from Noi Sirius chocolate manufacturer,  it will be packed with candy produced by Noi Sirius. Still, there is one thing that all the eggs have in common,  and that is the old Icelandic saying hidden inside.

Paskaegg Easter Egg

Old Icelandic Sayings, or malshaettir as they are called in Icelandic, are an equally important part of Easter in Iceland — and even more so for those who don’t like candy. The family will sit together and read their malshættir out loud and discuss if they are fitting or not.  We treat those sayings a bit like our monthly horoscopes!

Some of them are very difficult to translate, especially the ones tracing back to the Viking times. Here you can read some examples of these sayings:

  • Gott atlaeti er gjofum betra” – [roughly translated] “good affection is better than gifts
  • Morgunstund gefur gull í mund” – [the English version of the saying] “the early bird catches the worm”

Icelandic Easter Egg Hunt

Easter Eggs in Iceland

The Icelandic version of the Easter Egg Hunt is a little different from what you might do in your home country. The chocolate Paskaegg are hidden around the house by the parents, usually during the night before Easter Sunday. When the kids wake up, they do so with a big smile on their face and butterflies in their bellies, as now it is time to hunt down the goodies! Most parents use the vocal measurement of “getting hotter” to “getting colder” to tell how close their child is to finding the Easter egg.  (“Hot” being close and “cold” being far.)

Once the kids find the egg, they break it, share the proverb with the rest of the family– and then feast on the hidden sugary treasure.

Other Icelandic Easter Traditions

Easter Chicks

The Easter Lamb is an essential part of the Icelandic Easter feast. We usually eat lamb for dinner on Easter Sunday. It’s the perfect meal for the whole family to enjoy together. The sides are typically sugar-glazed potatoes, and a vegetable such as green beans with loads of pepper sauce. The sauce is of local importantance!

Bad Weather? Let’s face it, Iceland is not the country you visit if you are looking for great weather and, unfortunately, the skies during Easter can get quite bad. So much so that bad weather during Easter in Iceland even has a special word. The word is Paskahret (you might want to remember that one).

However — and this is especially true when Easter comes late — the weather can actually be gorgeous. The ideal Easter will be with sunny skies,  snow-covered hills and frosty mountains.

Fun Fact: Easter is actually a popular time to travel North in Iceland to do some skiing.

Easter Decorations are not as extravagant as  Christmas ones,  but you can still see them everywhere. Decorations are usually homemade. Children will come home with hand-made bunnies, eggs or flowers they made at school,  or the family will sit down together to make some decorations at home. Grown-ups tend to buy yellow flowers and put them in a vase. Actually, anything having something to do with the color yellow– such as chicks, bunnies, eggs or Easter lillies — will count as Easter decorations.

Icelandic Easter Decorations

Icelandic Words used over Easter | Icelandic Easter Lingo

  • Paskar = Easter
  • Paskalamb = Easter Lamb
  • Paskaegg = Easter Chocolate Egg
  • Palmasunnudagur = Palm Sunday
  • Skírdagur = Maundy Thursday (Holy Thursday)
  • Fostudagurinn Langi = Good Friday
  • Paskadagur = Easter Sunday
  • Annar i Paskum = Easter Monday
  • Uppstigningardagur = Ascension Day
  • Paskahret = A special Icelandic word used to describe bad weather occurring during Easter time.

How to spend Easter in Reykjavik | What to Do

1. Buy yourself a Paskaegg – If we haven’t made it clear, Easter in Iceland is all about those chocolate oval-shaped eggs we call Paskaegg. Get yourself one; they are sold at all the major supermarkets.  Then find a helpful  Icelander to translate your egg’s proverb!

Here is a lesson in how to break them!

2. Check opening hours before visiting – Easter is a public holiday in Iceland and can, therefore, affect some opening times. Make sure to check your bucket list places for their opening times during Easter. Fortunately, most restaurants and tours will be up and running.

3. Taste some Icelandic Lamb Meat – you can find it at most steakhouses in the city and around the country. Icelanders love serving their lamb meat. It is the most traditional meat dish and probably the most loved one as well!

4. Take a sip of an Icelandic Easter Beer. This is a real thing in Iceland , as most breweries will jump at a chance to brew beers for a special occasion. Ask for “Paskabjor” at the nearest liquor store or bar and the staff will hook you up with some local brews. The beers tend to be a bit darker, similar to Christmas beers, but might also have some chocolate elements in the taste.  That’s perhaps not a big surprise considering how big of a role chocolate actually plays in an  Icelandic Easter celebration.

Pro Tip: Make sure to check the opening hours of the Liquor stores. Since Easter is a national holiday they are not open daily.

5. Join a Chocolate Tour! The infamous Icelandic Chocolate Factory Omnom has won many awards for their delicious chocolate and is now inviting visitors to look around their factory. Join the Omnom Chocolate Tour for a glimpse into the luxury chocolate scene in Iceland– and, of course,  for some delicious tastes of their product. This facotory tour is a hidden gem, and the guide is amazing!

P.S. This is their 2019 Easter Egg! 

Omnom Easter Egg 2019

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