On June 17, 1944, the Republic of Iceland was formally established and Iceland became independent after being under Danish rule. The day has been celebrated as the Icelandic National Day ever since.
June 17 was chosen because it is the birthday of Jón Sigurdsson (1811-1879), the leader of Iceland’s independence movement.Icelanders are particularly festive and approachable on June 17. Photo by Eygló Svala Arnarsdóttir.
Usually, the National Day is celebrated across the country with parades led by marching bands and scouts following as color guard. Prominent figures in society address the public in town and city squares.
Ceremonies often include an address or poetry reading by a woman dressed as fjallkonan (“The Mountain Woman”), wearing Iceland’s most festive national dress.
Fjallkonan represents the Icelandic spirit and nature and became a symbolic figure in Iceland’s fight for independence.
After the formal celebration is over, bands play for the crowd and children are treated to cotton candy and balloons, and are given rides on carousels.
In Akureyri, in northeast Iceland, students traditionally graduate from the local junior college Menntaskólinn á Akureyri on June 17 and parade through the streets at midnight sporting white hats.