One Year in Iceland and Icelandic Public Holidays

Today marks one year since I arrived in Iceland! When I came I was expecting to stay for 3 months and then leave for a while before making any decision to return for longer but plans change and I decided to stay.

During my year here so much has happened! I met my boyfriend who I'm now living with (as of a few days ago), I have lived in 3 towns here  (Hveragerði, Kópavogur and Selfoss), I've had 2 jobs in the capital, there was a major emergency back home and I have almost finished Icelandic 3!

I could never have imagined that so much would change in such a short time but I'm so grateful for the changes and things that I've learned along the way. I've met many people from all walks of life, learned about different cultures and started to learn how to communicate in another language.

One of the things I learned a lot about this last year is public holidays. There are a lot of them here and they're celebrated differently from back home. Here are a few I've experiened this last year.

17th June

The 17th June is Icelandic Independence Day. Each town has celebrations and Icelandic flags are everywhere! There are usually family events around the country to celebrate.

Jól (Christmas)

In Iceland, presents are opened on the evening of 24th December rather than the 25th. It is a rather formal affair with the family gathered and dressed in formal attire. Christmas dinner is eaten and the presents are opened after. Everyone gets one present each from each family members instead of a sack full. There are 13 Yule Lads that visit children on the lead up to Christmas and leave small presents in their shoes. Traditonal Christmas food includes Skata (fermented Mantaray).

New Year

New Year is also a family event, a family dinner is eaten before and everyone watches Áramótaskaupið on TV together. It is a sketch show mocking the years events. In downtown there is a huge firework display at Hallgrímskirkja (and it is absolutely terrifying to be a part of!).

Páska (Easter)

On Easter there is a traditional roast dinner eaten (similar to a British roast lamb dinner) and Icelandic Easter eggs are handed around afterwards. The chocolate eggs contain sweets (mostly with liquorice) and a fortune written in Icelandic (a bit like a fortune cookie). The eggs are decorated with little chicks and other embellishments.

Red Days

On Public Holidays and other important days (known as red days) employees are required to be paid more if they are working. The workers unions fought for this to be implemented and it means that anyone working on a red day must be given double pay (or triple on days such as Christmas!). I wasn't aware of this at first and had worked a couple of red days before I knew that I was being paid extra for them!

After my first year living in Iceland I feel that I'm slowly getting used to this cultures holidays and traditions. I find it strange that red days don't always fall on a Monday (like bank holidays back in the UK) and I still don't quite understand all of the holidays (like commerce day which is a public holidays for shop workers, even though everyone is still working...) but the more I learn about the more this place starts to feel like home.

Loppy x

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