Today is the first day of summer and that is a day off here in Iceland which is of course much appreciated. There are parades and other events to mark this joyous occasion. I thought it might be interesting to cover Icelandic holidays and celebrations a little bit.

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Eccentric Icelandic holidays

In the past when Iceland was a dirt poor agrarian society (just like a century ago) it was a day to celebrate the fact that you survived  yet another hellish winter. There are more eccentric holidays which have religious roots here in Iceland:

  • Maundy Thursday is a day off.
  • Good Friday is a day off. Back in the day this used the most dismal day of the year with nothing on TV or the Radio and every shop was closed.
  • The second day of Easter is a really nice Monday off
  • Day of Ascension is another Thursday off.
  • Boxing Day is a day off.

Non religious Icelandic holidays include the 1st of May (May Day) is a day off. It has a large demonstration each year and many shops and services are closed. New Years Day as well. New Years day used to be only second to Good Friday in terms of sheer boredom but now things are a bit more lively. After all, there are so many travelers in Iceland over the new years and they need to eat, drink and be merry. 17th of June is the Icelandic national holiday which commemorates the birthday of the national hero Jón Sigurðsson and the founding of the Icelandic Republic in 1944.

Gay Pride in Reykjavik, Iceland
Tens of thousands attend Reykjavik Gay Pride. Not insignificant in a nation of just 330 thousand.

Biggest celebrations in Iceland do not have a holiday

But the biggest celebration in Iceland in modern times does not have its national holiday. This is the annual gay pride parade which always takes place on a Saturday in August in Reykjavik. It attracts tens of thousands of people every year. It is a lot of fun, I assure you. Earlier huge celebration in Reykjavik is the Reykjavik culture night. The entire city becomes a living and breathing art gallery and music stage. Again, tens of thousands of people participate and the event concludes with massive fireworks at Reykjavik harbor. The annual Reykjavik Marathon kicks of the Reykjavik Culture Night and is the biggest sporting event by far in Iceland. I have run it two times and it is a great event.