Today is a public holiday in Iceland as, according to the old Norse calendar, it is the first day of summer.
Today is the first day of Harpa—the seventh month of the year, and the first month of summer. The First Day of Summer (Sumardagurinn fyrsti) always occurs on the first Thursday after April 18.
The Norse calendar has only two seasons: the dark winter and the light summer. As a result, the first day of summer rarely enjoys summery weather and people in Iceland are very used to spending their cherished day off work or school diligently pursuing outdoor activities in snow and icy winds. It’s all part of the fun!
This year, however, the weather is playing ball. With widespread sunshine across the country, though cloudy in the southwest, it is expected to remain dry almost everywhere. It’s not exactly warm though—and that’s actually considered a good thing.
If people wake up on the first day of summer and find water left outside has frozen overnight, then summer and winter are considered to have “frozen together”, and folklore says this means the summer will be a good one. Folklore says, therefore, that this summer is going to be good. Hooray!
This year, the first day of summer falls during the Reykjavík city children’s festival—and organizers have diligently put on an array of family-friendly events in every district of the city, including parades, face painting, bouncy castles, barbecues, free swimming and church services.
The sixth annual Children’s Cultural Festival opened in Reykjavík on Tuesday. The festival, which emphasizes children’s participation in cultural events, runs through Sunday, April 24.
Children should also take note: there is a long tradition in Iceland of children receiving summer gifts from their parents on this day…
Winter will begin again on Saturday October 24. For some reason that day will not be a national holiday and there will not be street festivals and barbecues to celebrate.