Bolla, Bolla, Bolla! Go Have Yourself a Cream Puff (or Seven)

In the grand tradition of delicious Icelandic food holidays (and perhaps also somewhat less delicious Icelandic food holidays), I give you today’s delicious entry to the list: Bolludagur, or bun day.

What is Bun Day, you ask? Per The Reykjavík Grapevine:

Today is Bun Day, or Bolludagur, which is celebrated on the Monday before Lent starts, seven weeks before Easter. On this day, children wake their parents up with loud screams and spanks. The kids shout “Bolla, Bolla, Bolla!” (“Bun, bun, bun!”) and try to spank their parents with paddles that they have made at school. These are made of wands that are wrapped in colourful tissue, and for every successful spank, the kids get to eat one bun.

Now, I know that as a parent, I would probably get tired of having my children whack me one (or two or five) early in the morning and then expect to be rewarded with cream buns. And yet. I just love the joyful, “bolla, bolla, bolla!” refrain. (Try it–it’s fun!) And oh yeah, the buns are tasty, too. I’m not normally a cream-filling sort of gal–Boston Creme doughnuts, for instance, are way down there at the bottom of the doughnut hierarchy with say, bran muffins (not a doughnut! you say–I know! that’s why it is so far down on the list of awesome doughnuts!) But having sampled a very wide variety of Icelandic cream buns yesterday, I am falling down squarely in the “pro” faction.

Mark and I were invited to a bolludagur celebration yesterday, the better to get a head start on the bun-eating. (There was no whacking, though.) We tried about five varieties of cream buns: caramel, Bailey’s (my two favorites), vanilla, strawberry, and your classic chocolate. But to my mind, the best part was actually the little squeeze of raspberry jam that was in the bottom of each bun. Like a magical reward for making it through the clouds of cream. Interestingly, an Icelandic friend later told the Americans who had had their first bun day experience that a) the part he personally hated was the jam and b) that he considered it sacrilege to buy the buns, rather than make them at home. I imagine that homemade cream buns are tasty, but I wouldn’t pass up another bakery-bought one with jam.

Bun Day is the lead-up to another fun pre-Lenten holiday: Sprengidagur, or Bursting Day, when you are supposed to eat massive quantities of salted meat and pea soup. And then…there is Icelandic Halloween, otherwise known as Öskudagur, a.k.a. Ash Wednesday. On this day, children all over Iceland dress up in costumes and go around to local shops asking for candy. But the awesome part is that in order to get the candy, the kids have to sing songs. Apparently, according to the same Icelandic friend, you (an individual) can walk around town with a bag of candy, demanding that adorable children in costumes sing to you for tribute. Perhaps we know what I will be doing on Wednesday?

Anyway, due to my partner in cream bun demolition, I was able to try five varieties of cream buns yesterday, for a grand total of seven buns eaten. I know that you may not have that many varieties where you are, but I hereby challenge you to a bun day duel: how many cream buns can you eat? (For the record, according to that Grapevine article above, just one bakery sold 200 cream buns last year. So figure that Icelanders are much better at eating cream buns than us.)

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