8 Curious Icelandic Traditions and Customs

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Everyone knows that Iceland is a different country in many ways. The land of fire and ice has more than 130 volcanic mountains, geysers, black sand beaches and unpronounceable words. Not only that! The curious traditions and customs of Iceland show that the country of welcoming people really has a lot to surprise you.

To begin with, the Icelandic people, modern, technological and very well informed, maintain close ties with their traditions and superstitions. So far, so good. The point is that some of them may even seem common to them, but to foreigners, they sound very peculiar. But will it be?

Curious Icelandic traditions and customs

Iceland has a testicle festival

THE Icelandic cuisine tells a lot about their culture, so people take food-related traditions very seriously! One of them is Thorrablot, a festival held in the old Norse month of Thorri, which runs from January to February. In it, people gather and eat everything from boiled sheep’s heads to pickled mutton testicles and fermented shark.

Obviously, food preservation methods in Iceland have improved, so no one needs to ferment them like they used to. But the festival continues. However, Thorrablot is a way to bring friends and family together, as well as preserving traditions and honoring ancestors.

READ MORE: The beauty of black sand beaches in Iceland, the land of extremes

Ash Wednesday kicks off a three-day festival

Ash Wednesday in Iceland does not start Lent, as Catholic tradition says. There, a three-day party begins in which Icelanders eat their weight in sweet and savory foods. Each day has a different name and tradition.

First comes Bolludagur, the Day of Bread. In it, children make their traditional wands and use them to “beat” their parents to give them creamy chocolate buns. Every magic touch of the wand is worth a loaf of bread. At Sprengidagur, on Shrove Tuesday, people bring huge amounts of salted meat and peas.

The party ends on Oskudagur, Ash Wednesday, a type of Icelandic Halloween. The children dress up and go out to ask for sweets. There is also a game of hanging small bags on people’s backs without them noticing.

There are sheep rodeos

Have you ever been to a sheep rodeo? If you visit Iceland in September and October, you will have the opportunity to experience this experience! The sheep graze freely in the summer, but in these months, they must be captured back to the barn due to the cooler temperatures. Only it’s not just any form of capture!

With the help of friends and family, the farmers go in search of the animals and gather them in special pens. When all the sheep are safely in their right place, the farmers organize a dance to celebrate the day’s work.

READ MORE: Discover 10 unmissable waterfalls in Iceland

There are no family names in Iceland

Another curious custom in Iceland is that there are no family names – at least not as we know them – and surnames are not transmitted. There, those commonly used in the family are passed.

For example, the first name Freyr (male) or Anna (female). If the grandfather carries the name (and is very dear), it may be that the grandchildren will carry it.

In most cases, children use their father’s first name as their surname by adding a -son or a -dóttir depending on gender. For example, a couple named Freyr Jónsson and Anna Þorsteinsdóttir have a baby. If it’s a boy and they want to call him Björn, he’ll probably be called Björn Freysson.

If it’s a girl and they want to call her Kristín, her full name will be Kristín Freysdóttir. She saw that, in this family there are four different surnames: Jónsson, Þorsteinsdóttir, Freysson and Freysdóttir.

Another thing, women don’t use their husbands’ surnames in Iceland, and vice versa. Maaas, things don’t end there! A hypothetical new couple, Einar Gunnarsson and Sigrún Felixdóttir, have a son named Gunnar Einarsson and a daughter named Ingibjörg Einarsdóttir.

Gunnar, in turn, decides to honor his son with his father’s name and names him Einar. Only then, the surname will be Gunnarsson, what they call “alnafni”, a translation for full homonyms. However, if Ingibjörg has a son and decides to name him Einar Ingibjargarson, he is a nafni (a namesake). What a “salad” of names, huh?

Is there a deadline for registering children

Do you think the name thing is over? Another tradition related to them is that the name is only announced at the baptism or naming ceremony. However, this can happen months after the child is born. Legally, parents have up to six months to register the child. After the deadline, a fine of approximately 11500 ISK per day is paid.

SEE ALSO: The 5 Best Hot Spring SPAS in Iceland

Icelanders are very superstitious about weather.

Icelanders take the weather very seriously, and that’s really not surprising. After all, they are in the land of volcanoes, geysers and landscapes of contrasts. So they always tried to adapt and never irritate him. As a result, a number of curious traditions and customs emerged in Iceland. For example, don’t step on the black beetle because it will bring rain.

Or, don’t let your rake pins up as it will also bring rain. Dreams also play an important role in this superstition. Dreaming of white sheep means snow for the amount of days represented by the animals that appear in the dream.

More superstitions…

When moving into a new home, bring bread and salt first so you never run out of food. But don’t let anyone give you a knife, as this item must be purchased, otherwise you will lose friendship with the giver.

If someone offers you a piece of licorice, take two, unless you want to be single for the rest of your life. When toasting with friends, look them in the eye or your love life will be a disaster!

Has a sympathy to undo bad luck

If knocking on wood prevents bad luck in many countries, in Iceland it is also necessary to say the numbers 7-9-13 aloud, as they have a special power to ward off, doubly, bad fate.

See how the traditions and habits of Iceland are not even strange? These are just cultural customs that we should be open to when we want to discover new countries. So, which custom from another country do you find curious?

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