Men’s Day in Iceland Date in the current year: January 26, 2024

Men’s Day in Iceland Men’s Day (Bóndadagur, literally “Farmer’s Day”) is a traditional celebration in Iceland occurring in late January. The holiday originated as a midwinter festival dedicated to the Norse personification of frost, but today it is somewhat of an equivalent to Valentine’s Day.

The celebration of Men’s Day stems from an old tradition of welcoming Þorri (often spelled Thorri in English), the fourth month of winter in the old Icelandic calendar. The first day of the month always falls on a Friday in the second half of January in the Gregorian calendar.

Þorri is the personification of winter or frost in Norse mythology. His name is generally believed to have been derived from Thor, the name of the Norse god of thunder and lightning. Þorri is mentioned in the 13th-century Orkneyinga saga as the son of Snær, the personification of snow, as well as in the 12th-century account Hversu Noregr byggðist (“How Noway Was Settled”) as a descendant of Fornjót and the king of Finland Proper, Kvenland and Gotland.

The fourth winter month in the Icelandic calendar and the traditional midwinter sacrifice, Þorrablót, were named after Þorri. The word “Þorrablót” literally means “sacrifice to Þorri”. A blót was a blood sacrifice to gods, the spirits of the lands, and to ancestors in Norse paganism. Such sacrifices usually involved killing animals or even humans followed by a feast on the meat of the sacrificed animals. Over time the feast became the only thing that was left of the original midwinter sacrifice.

Upon the arrival of Christian missionaries to Iceland, many of the pagan rituals and traditions were forgotten. The tradition of Þorrablót was revived in the mid-19th century thanks to the rise of Romantic nationalism. Around the same time, Jón Árnason published his book titled Íslenzkar Þjóðsögur og Æfintýri (“Icelandic Folktales and Legends”) that contained a description of an old ritual to welcome Þorri.

According to Árnason’s account, the master of the house (who was most often a farmer, hence the modern holiday’s name Bóndadagurm which means “Farmer’s Day”) was supposed to get up before sunrise, put only his underwear and one leg of his trousers on, and hop around his house calling neighbors to attend a holiday feast to welcome Þorri.

Although it is unclear whether the ritual actually existed, the midwinter feast is definitely a real tradition that was revived by Icelandic nationalists in the 19th century and was widely publicized in the 1960s. A selection of traditional foods served at the feast and consumed throughout the month of Þorri is called Þorramatur. It consists of cured meat and fish products accompanied by rúgbrauð (a type of rye bread), butter and brennivín, the signature distilled spirit of Iceland.

In the 1970s, the holiday started to be promoted as Men’s Day. On this day, women congratulate their partners by cooking them breakfast or dinner, giving them small gifts or flowers. Men are expected to reciprocate in a month on Women’s Day (Konudagur), which falls on the first day of the Icelandic month of Góa.

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Men’s Day in Iceland, holidays in Iceland, traditional holidays, midwinter feast, festivals in Iceland