New Year in Reykjavík

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With shaking hands I clicked the 'confirm purchase' button on my phone screen. I was sitting in a geothermal swimming pool in Reykjavik with my mother and had impulsively decided that I would be returning, alone, for the New Year.

One month later I found myself in a hostel dorm in Downtown with several foreigners whose accents I struggled to understand and names I could hardly pronounce. Although I was still very ill from a viral infection I was determined to see the new year in in Reykjavik. I borrowed some make up from the Swiss girl in my dorm room, pulled on my snow boots and ventured out into the night. I walked past a little pub where a few drunk men were lighting fireworks, one at a time, and screaming “Hell yeah!” after Every. Single. One.

As I ventured deeper into Downtown people were pouring out of the bars and into the streets, fireworks were lit in the middle of the road, exploding next to people every few feet. The Icelanders were roaring with excitement after each loud bang, I was terrified. A firework launched sideways and burst into the wall I was about to walk in front of, narrowly missing a man. I felt as though I were in a war zone.

I started my ascent to the Hallgrimskirkja, thinking the top of the hill would give me the best, and safest, view of the fireworks. Little did I know that that was where the city's firework display was, as I soon found out when I was suddenly in a crowd of what appeared to contain Iceland's entire population! Instead of feeling scared, I suddenly felt exhilarated! The community spirit emanating from the crowd was like nothing I'd ever experienced before. Everyone was cheering, hugging and laughing with friends and strangers alike.

Looking up to a balcony on a nearby building, I saw an old man lighting tiny fireworks above the crowd, enjoying the evening with his family. As I looked around I noticed a lot of families gathering together to watch the display and smiled, New Year in Iceland was very different from home. There were no girls crying because they'd lost their crush, no rowdy drunkards, no police patrolling the streets. Everyone here was family, regardless of whether they'd met before or not.  I felt like a part of something greater.

There was no countdown, but as midnight struck the fireworks got bigger, the crowd got louder and the fun was just beginning. The display lasted for another 45 minutes and when it was finished we all marched back down the hill together, the crowd filtering down as people walked into bars and found their friends. On the way back to the hostel I noticed lots of small groups of Icelanders, only about 5 or 6 people together, lighting tiny bonfires in milk crates and standing around with beers in their hands. Spending quality time together, that is what the New Year should be about.



  1. Sounds like an exciting beginning to a New Year! It’s always great to spend time with loved ones and to just enjoy the moment . Don’t always need the glamour. Glad you got over your illness in time to enjoy it. Great photos and video.

  2. This sounds like a fantastic way to celebrate the New Year! Your pictures are lovely.

  3. I've always heard great things about Iceland!It's an adventure in itself to spend a New Year's eve in new town all by yourself. Great spirit! Thanks for sharing your journey.