Iceland Mag

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Iceland Mag

Culture

Icelanders celebrate the unique public holiday "First Day of Summer"

By Staff

  • Scout parade The First Day of Summer is a family holiday, celebrated with neighbourhood parades and festivities. Photo/Daníel

Today, April 20, Icelanders celebrate "the First Day of Summer", a unique Icelandic public holiday. The First Day of Summer, or Sumardagurinn fyrsti, in Icelandic, is always celebrated on the first Thursday after April 18.

A 45 year old public holiday, an ancient tradition
The date has less to do with the weather we can expect in late April, and more to do with tradition: According to the Old Norse calendar this marked the beginning of the summer season. The Old Norse calendar divided the year into only two seasons, winter and summer. In this calendar it is the first day of the first of the six summer months, Harpa. Sumardagurinn fyrsti was also called Yngismeyjardagur, or The Day of Maidens.  

Read more: Spring has formally arrived: The golden plover has returned from its winter migration

An old belief states that if summer and winter "freeze together", if there is frost on the morning of the first day of summer, we can expect a warm and sunny summer.

In previous times Mass was usually sung on the First Day of Summer. Since 1972 the day has been a public holiday. The Icelandic scout movement and youth organizations organize parades and festivities on this day, and many municipalities organize neighborhood celebrations at elementary schools and community centers.

“Gleðilegt sumar!” (Happy summer) is the greeting to use today and the next few days, even though it might by snowing.

 

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