Public Holidays in Iceland

Iceland is a country with a rich cultural heritage and a strong sense of community. Public holidays in Iceland are deeply rooted in the nation's history, religion, and traditions. These holidays provide an opportunity for Icelanders to come together, celebrate, and reflect on their shared values. Many of these holidays are marked by unique customs and events that make them special and significant. In this article, we will explore the various public holidays in Iceland, each with its own distinct traditions and cultural importance.

New Year's Day

New Year's Day in Iceland, known as "Nýársdagur," is celebrated on January 1st. It is a time for fresh beginnings and is marked by festive activities. The celebrations often start the night before, with grand fireworks displays lighting up the skies. On New Year’s Day, families and friends gather for a special meal and reflect on the past year while making resolutions for the new one. It’s a public holiday, and most businesses are closed, allowing people to enjoy the day off with loved ones.

Maundy Thursday

Maundy Thursday, or "Skírdagur," is observed on the Thursday before Easter. This day commemorates the Last Supper of Jesus Christ with his disciples. Many Icelanders attend church services that include readings from the Bible and hymns. It is a day of reflection and preparation for the coming Easter celebrations. Schools and many businesses are closed, giving people the opportunity to spend time with family and participate in religious observances.

Good Friday

Good Friday, known as "Föstudagurinn langi," is a solemn day in Iceland, marking the crucifixion of Jesus Christ. It falls on the Friday before Easter and is a time for quiet reflection and prayer. Church services are held throughout the country, focusing on the themes of sacrifice and redemption. Many people also use this day to visit the graves of loved ones, paying their respects and decorating the gravesites with flowers. It is a public holiday, and a peaceful, contemplative atmosphere pervades the day.

Easter Sunday

Easter Sunday, or "Páskadagur," celebrates the resurrection of Jesus Christ and is one of the most important religious holidays in Iceland. The day begins with church services filled with joyous hymns and prayers. Families gather for festive meals, often featuring traditional dishes like roast lamb and special Easter cakes. Children look forward to Easter egg hunts and receiving chocolate eggs. The holiday is a time of joy and renewal, celebrated with both religious and family activities.

Easter Monday

Easter Monday, known as "Annar í páskum," is the day after Easter Sunday and continues the celebrations. It is a public holiday, providing an extended weekend for relaxation and family gatherings. Many Icelanders use this day for outdoor activities like hiking and picnicking, taking advantage of the spring weather. Traditional foods are again enjoyed, and communities often host events and fairs. It is a day to unwind and enjoy the company of loved ones after the religious observances of Easter.

First Day of Summer

The First Day of Summer, or "Sumardagurinn fyrsti," is celebrated on the first Thursday after April 18th. This unique holiday marks the arrival of summer according to the old Icelandic calendar. Despite the often cold and wintry weather, the day is filled with festive activities, including parades and community events. People dress in bright clothing, and children carry colorful flags and balloons. It symbolizes the end of winter and the hopeful arrival of warmer days, making it a cherished holiday in Iceland.

Labour Day

Labour Day, known as "Verkalýðsdagurinn," is celebrated on May 1st and honors workers and their contributions. The day is marked by parades and rallies organized by labor unions, featuring speeches by union leaders and politicians. The celebrations emphasize the importance of workers' rights, fair wages, and better working conditions. It is also a public holiday, giving people the chance to relax and enjoy the day off with family and friends. Labour Day is a time for advocacy, celebration, and unity among the working community.

Ascension Day

Ascension Day, or "Uppstigningardagur," is observed 40 days after Easter Sunday and commemorates the ascension of Jesus Christ into heaven. It is a public holiday, with many Icelanders attending special church services that focus on the spiritual significance of Christ's ascension. Families often gather for meals and spend the day together, enjoying the spring weather. Outdoor activities like hiking and picnicking are popular. The day combines religious observance with family bonding, making it a meaningful holiday in Iceland.

Whit Sunday

Whit Sunday, known as "Hvítasunnudagur," is celebrated 50 days after Easter Sunday and marks the descent of the Holy Spirit upon the apostles. This day is significant in the Christian calendar and is observed with church services and prayers. Families come together for festive meals and enjoy traditional Icelandic foods. The holiday is also a time for outdoor activities and cultural events, as the pleasant spring weather provides the perfect backdrop for community gatherings and celebrations.

Whit Monday

Whit Monday, or "Annar í hvítasunnu," is the day after Whit Sunday and is also a public holiday. It continues the Pentecost celebrations with additional church services and family activities. Many people take advantage of the long weekend to explore the beautiful Icelandic countryside, going on hikes and picnics. The day is marked by a relaxed and joyful atmosphere, with families enjoying each other’s company and participating in community events. It is a day of leisure and celebration, extending the spirit of Whit Sunday.

National Day

The National Day of Iceland, known as "Þjóðhátíðardagurinn," is celebrated on June 17th. This date marks the anniversary of Iceland's independence from Denmark in 1944 and the establishment of the Republic of Iceland. The celebrations include flag-raising ceremonies, parades, and speeches by local leaders. Reykjavik, the capital city, hosts the largest events with colorful parades and cultural performances. The day is filled with national pride, as people of all ages come together to celebrate their country’s history and heritage.

Commerce Day

Commerce Day, or "Verslunarmannahelgi," is celebrated on the first Monday of August. This public holiday honors workers in the commerce and service industries. It is one of the biggest holidays in Iceland, marked by festivals, concerts, and outdoor activities. People take advantage of the long weekend to go camping, hiking, and exploring the Icelandic landscapes. The holiday is a time for relaxation and enjoyment, with families gathering for picnics and barbecues. The festive atmosphere and community events make Commerce Day a highly anticipated holiday each year.

Christmas Day

Christmas Day in Iceland, known as "Jóladagur," is celebrated on December 25th and is a magical time for families. The celebrations begin on Christmas Eve with a special dinner and the exchange of gifts. Christmas Day is marked by festive meals featuring traditional Icelandic dishes, such as smoked lamb and pastries. Families attend church services and spend the day together, enjoying the cozy and warm atmosphere of their homes. The holiday season in Iceland is filled with unique customs, including the visits from the 13 Yule Lads, making Christmas a special and joyous time.

Public holidays in Iceland are a blend of religious observances, cultural traditions, and community celebrations. These holidays provide an opportunity for Icelanders to come together, reflect on their shared values, and enjoy quality time with family and friends. Each holiday has its own unique customs and significance, adding to the rich cultural tapestry of Iceland. Whether it’s the solemn reflection of Good Friday, the joyous celebrations of National Day, or the festive spirit of Christmas, these public holidays play an important role in the lives of Icelanders, fostering a sense of unity and pride in their heritage.

Upcoming Holidays (next six months)

HolidayDateDayType
Commerce Day August 05 Monday Public Holiday

Holidays by Year

Previous Year: 2023
This page was last edited on 17 May 2024 at 09:37 AM (EST).