Women’s Day and beginning of Góa

According to the Old Icelandic Calendar, Góa, the fifth month of winter begins between 18 and 25 February. The month brings with it brighter days and the coming of spring.

The first day of Góa is also Women’s Day/Housewife’s Day – like the first day of Þorri is Husband’s Day.

Women’s Day was known in the mid-19th century; however, official records of the day only date back to 1927.

You can read about the Old Icelandic calendar here.

What happens on Women’s Day?

Just as men are pampered on Husband’s Day, women are pampered on Women’s Day. Traditionally they are given flowers, but that custom started in the mid-20th century. One of the first advertisements for Women’s Day Flowers is from 1957.

Today, women are still given flowers, but many get breakfast to bed and just general pampering.

blómvöndur, góa, women's day

What is Góa?

The word’s etymology is unknown, but before the 18th century, it was known as Gói. The name may have something to do with snow. The oldest sources for the first day of Góa being Women’s Day is since the 19th century. It could, however, be much older since written sources don’t tell the whole story.

Góa is the second to last winter month of the Old Icelandic calendar. The name is one of only a handful found in 13th-century manuscripts.

In the oldest sources, Gói (as the original name was) is the daughter of Þorri, her grandfather is Snær (snow), and her great-grandfather is Frosti (frost). Her paternal sisters are Mjöll (new-fallen snow) and Drífa (heavy snowfall). In her story, she ran away with a boy during a Þorrablót (Þorri worship/party). Her father, Þorri, sacrificed to the gods to find what had become of her, which was called Góublót.

Góublót were possibly held at this time of year, like Þorrablót. They were probably quite different from the food feasts of modern Þorrablót, but we have no idea to be sure. Sources show that these kinds of “blót” were parties, but we do not know much else. The custom mostly disappeared when Icelanders became Christian in the 11th century. However, it might have persisted in some homes.

Since Góa always starts on a Sunday, the “Sunday roast” was for dinner, which might have contributed to Góublót at later dates. However, it often begins during Lent, at a time when it wasn’t pertinent to feast. In later years, you can sometimes see commercialised Góugleði (Góa-fun), usually planned by shops as women’s nights.

Others might have noticed that a candy manufacturing company in Iceland is called Góa. The first day of operation was 1 January 1968 and shortly thereafter began manufacturing their Góa-caramels and the chocolate Hraun. It is also known for its Apollo liquorice, Lindu buff, Æði, Toffí and Flórída. It is the second-largest candy manufacturer in Iceland.

Gullfoss, spring, winter, góa
Gullfoss Waterfall during Góa – Pierre-Selim Huard, CC BY 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Góa-Easter

The Easter holiday usually starts during Einmánuður (the last winter month). But occasionally, when it is very early, Góa is still ongoing. Then they’re called Góa-Easter (góupáskar), which is usually newsworthy since it is so rare. It happened only twice in the 20th century, in 1913 and 1940. It happened in 2016, and then it won’t happen again until 2160.

So-called “Summer-Easter” is much more common every 15 years on average. This century will happen six times; in 2011, 2038, 2057, 2068, 2079 and 2095. It is called Summer-Easter because Holy Thursday or Maundy Thursday falls on the First Day of Summer. That is also the first day of Harpa, the first summer month, and begins on a Thursday between 19 and 25 April.

Tjörnin or The Pond in Reykjavik during Góa – Helgi Hall from Reykjavík, Iceland, CC BY 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Folkore about Góa

An 18th-century poem says that husbands should welcome Góa the same way their wives did at the beginning of Þorri. Walk out the door on the last day of Þorri and invite her in as a highly regarded friend with praises.

Some sources say the housewives did this as well, as many men were out at sea at this time of year.

The Góa weather was (and is) very important. If the first three days of Góa were horrible, then the rest of the month would be good. Some believed the first three days could also determine the summer. So we think we will always wish for the first three days to be horrible!

The last day of Góa, called Góuþræll, was for many the unluckiest day of the year, especially if you are a fisherman. There are many stories about major storms and the great loss of human lives on Góuþræll through the centuries.

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