Once a year, Icelandic kids receive or fashion a wooden stick with a paper decoration on one end. Then, they try to spank their parents with it, yelling “bolla, bolla, bolla!” (“bun, bun, bun!”) as they go. In return, adults reward children with choux pastries, stuffed with cream and jam, and topped with powdered sugar or chocolate. Every successful spank earns another pastry bun—at least, on Bolludagur, or “Bun Day,” it does.
Icelanders have observed the Monday before Ash Wednesday in various ways since the early 20th century, though the religious event has since evolved into a more unique, bun-crazed affair. To honor Bolludagur, local bakers on the island nation, which is home to fewer than 350,000 people, churn out more than one million buns. Countless families bake the fluffy sweets at home, as well.
Christians around the world maintain the tradition of indulging before Lent, usually on the Tuesday before the season begins. Though Bun Day officially begins on Monday, Icelanders often celebrate on Sunday, because weekends foster more freedom for time with children and deliberately overeating pastries.
Where to Try It
Braud & Co.16 Frakkastigur, Reykjavik, 101, Iceland
This rustic bakery makes exceptional cream buns, along with dozens of other Nordic treats.