Hæ, hó, jibbí jei og jibbíí jei, það er kominn sautjándi júní!
Yes, the 17th of June coming up, which is the Icelandic National Day!!
Google sautjándi júní and you‘ll be able to find the whole song quoted above. Or turn on the radio on the day of, and you‘ll be sure to hear this old hit. Or just click this link to the song on YouTube, complete with lyrics! The national anthem is another story, very ceremonious and solemn. So solemn that most of the radio stations never play it, though it is of course played when at big sports events. It's beautiful, both melody and lyrics; try googling Iceland national anthem, and give it a listen. It is lovely, and very fitting for a nation on the verge of extinction at the time it was composed – almost ;) It is a praise to God for keeping us alive, though only by a thread. (see more below)
But from whom or what did we gain this independence? You may not have known that Iceland was a colony for centuries, first of Norway, then Denmark. Those were dark times after a relatively glorious start after the colonisation in the 9th century, with democracy, rule of law and all that. But a 30 year civil war between powerful families took its toll and had lasting effects. It didn't help that the climate got colder, volcanic eruptions became more frequent, and epidemics spread. Isolation and general backwardness and poverty characterized the longest period of our history. It wasn't until 1944 that the Republic of Iceland was founded – yes, you guessed it: on June 17th. The rain was pouring but the atmosphere was very sunny. In between those awful times and independence, in 1918 came a short period where the country gained sovereignty and was called the Kingdom of Iceland, no less, sharing the Danish Monarch with the Danes, but deciding on its own affairs. Two nations, under one king.
But let's get back to the future. Why did our founding fathers choose 17th of June? Because that day was the birthday of the official hero of Icelandic independence, Jón Sigurðsson. He lived in Denmark most of his life where he fought tirelessly for Iceland's independence. His statue stands proud on the public square in front of the parliament building in Reykjavík. And every National Day celebrations start by the president of the municipal council of Reykjavík along with newly graduated secondary school students laying a wreath of flowers on his grave. Students participation symbolises the important role Icelandic students at the University of Copenhagen played in the battle for independence.
After this solemn ceremony, festivities start. You‘ll notice, wherever you go - in the city, in towns and villages alike. Flags and parades, pylsur, theatre and music performances, fairgrounds, dances and what ever people‘s imaginations can come up with!
If you google (again; we do like Google ;) ) 17 júní 2022 and perhaps the name of the town you're in, you should be able to find the schedule for the day.
Njóttu dagsins! Enjoy the day!
Photo credit: Hugleikur Dagsson