Today is the North Atlantic island nation’s 4th of July equivalent.
Three months from now, I expect to be in Iceland for the Society of American Travel Writers 2014 Convention. I can hardly wait. I don’t think airports “count” when it comes to checking travel destinations off a life list, or else I could say that I’ve been there a number of times. A lifetime ago, I used to fly New York-Luxembourg on the old Icelandic Airlines. The carrier had a $135 roundtrip off-season youth fare and considered you a youth until you were 30. A mandatory stop at Reykjavik’s Keflavik Airport in the pitch black revealed nothing about the country.
Because I’m going and also because Icelandair now has non-stop Denver-Reykjavik service, I’m paying more attention. I just learned that today, June 17, is National Day marking the country’s independence from Denmark in June 1944. That makes the country 70 years old. The 17th became the official day to celebrate because it is the birthday of Jon Sigurdsson, a prominent leader in the Icelandic Independence Movement.
Each year on this date, Icelanders take to the streets of Reykjavik to celebrate with parades, dances, street theater and more from 10 a.m. until 7 p.m. The festivities start off with the government’s ceremony at Austurvollur, followed by a parade, family entertainment at Arnaharholl and much more. The Icelandic Circus even makes appearances all over town with engaging characters, workshops and circus shows.
Of course the day wouldn’t be complete without the infamous Fjallkonan, the woman of the mountain, who wears the national costume and recites a poem to the crowd. She represents the spirit and nature of Iceland and is a symbol of Iceland’s push for independence. Following her are many other speeches, musical performances, and activities. After the formal celebrations are over, more informal parties are thrown in almost every town and village across the country.