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Gleðilegt sumar!

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Gleðilegt sumar!

Reykjavík

Photo: Geir Ólafsson.

Today is the official first day of summer in Iceland and is a public holiday. It is common for people to wish each other ‘gleðilegt sumar’ (happy summer) today.

To know it’s summer you must look at your calendar and absolutely not at the weather forecast! Snow on the ground really is no hindrance to the celebration of summer.

So how did such a cold country end up celebrating the coming of summer earlier in the year than almost any other country?

Well, it’s thanks to the Vikings.

The old Norse calendar had 12 months that were different to our modern calendar. Six of the months were winter months and six of them were summer months. There was no spring or autumn.

Summer begins on the first day of the month of Harpa, which on the modern calendar is always the Thursday between April 18 and 25. And as Iceland always retained a generous portion of its pre-Christian Pagan traditions, the old calendar and its special occasions have stuck to this day (at least partially).

Winter will start on the Saturday at the end of the 26th week of summer, at the start of Gormánuður, in modern-day October.

Meteorologically speaking, the dates of the season changes do roughly correspond with the changing of the oceanic currents around Iceland and the marked shift from regular storms and northerly blasts to much calmer summer weather.

This year, however, weather forecasters are cautioning against overenthusiasm: there is no fine, warm spring weather on the cards before at least the end of April, it seems.

Folklore dictates that for water to freeze on the last night of winter, into the first day of summer, means a fine summer ahead. It is known as summer and winter freezing together. So, if you saw saucers of water standing conspicuously outside people’s houses last night, now you know why!

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