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Halloween vs. Ash Wednesday

By Asta Run Agnarsdottir | Staff Writer

October 31, 2012

The end of October is here and that can only mean one thing, Halloween.

Halloween, also known as “All-Hallows”-Eve(evening) is something that has been a tradition for centuries.

It originally came from people called Celts who lived in Europe more than 2000 years ago, but since then the “All-Hallows”-Eve tradition spread all around the world.

Halloween is all about carving pumpkins into so called “Jack-O’ Lanterns” dressing up, “trick-or-treating” and watching scary movies.

These are things most have grown up knowing and experiencing for most if not all of their lives, but imagine if there was no Halloween, no haunted houses, nothing.

That’s how it is in Iceland. Don’t get me wrong, we know what Halloween is. Some of our stores have started selling small pumpkins, most “colleges” have Halloween dances and we’ve all seen the movies, but very few of us have experienced the actual event.

Instead we have a day called “Ash Wednesday.”

Ash Wednesday happens every year, between February 4th and March 10th, seven weeks before Easter.

The day marks the beginning of Lent in Western Christianity(Catholicism), where you fast for 40 days, which ends on Holy Thursday or Black Saturday.

The original purpose was to go to church and get black ashes put on your forehead, forming a cross to mourn and give repentance to God. However in Iceland today, it is celebrated differently.

Ash Wednesday is the last in a series of three event days, on the Monday we have “cream bun day”, where you can either make your own or go out to bakeries and buy different flavored cream buns.

Tuesday is what we call “bursting day”, where we have salted meat and bean soup, the name is because on this day in the old times people would eat until they “burst”, and then fast for the next forty days.

Last but not least, we have Ash Wednesday. In the old days this used to be a day when kids walked around with little bags (most of them sowed at home by their mother or grandmother), with ashes in them, trying to hang them on peoples backs without them noticing. Kids had a lot of fun doing that and often they competed among each other to get the most bags on one person. Nowadays it’s not like that.

On Ash Wednesday kids wake up early, usually before everything opens, and get dressed up in costumes which they either make themselves or buy. There is a lot of effort put into these costumes, especially for the younger generation.

After you’ve gotten all dressed up, kids go, either with their parents or friends, and walk around in malls and downtown, go to stores and sing a song (usually something similar to ‘itsy bitsy spider’ or ‘the annoying song’) and get tons of candy for it.

Most stores come prepared and have bought a lot of candy that they keep in a basket behind the store counter, you can see long lines coming out of stores that have the best candy.

The candy does run out, which means that if children don’t get up bright and early they might not get any.

Most schools give the day off but those who don’t  have the kids dress up, play games and do fun stuff for the whole day. A few schools also have dances during the day, for 1st-4th grade, that consist of bouncing castles and ‘piñatas’ that we call “beating the cat out of the barrel.”

Halloween is intended primarily for the younger generation, but there is no reason why adults and us older kids all over the world can’t dress up and celebrate the fun and festive day of Halloween.

About Asta Run Agnarsdottir

Asta is a Junior at Dos Pueblos. She came here from Iceland for the year. Besides from writing her interests are mostly soccer, photography, music and singing. This is the first year she has ever been involved in any kind of journalism and she's really excited to share her writing with you.

One Response to Halloween vs. Ash Wednesday

  1. John Dent November 1, 2012 at 8:51 AM

    Thank you so much for sharing these interesting and unique traditions of Iceland. I would definitely go for those cream buns, and I would’ve been the first one out in the morning to get the candy. Did you enjoy Halloween here in California? Did it meet your expectations?


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