Iceland: National Day

June 17

(Just one photo today.)

The last time we were in Iceland, lrcutter, who was there as well, shared one of her traveling strategies: every seventh day, she says, she does nothing. Visits no tourists sites, has no schedule, has nowhere she has to be and nothing she has to do. lnhammer and I thought this made an awful lot of sense, and have kept it in mind when traveling ever since. After 7 days, one really does need a day off from, well, actively working at having fun. 🙂

So June 17, up in Ísafjörður, was our planned do-nothing day.

It was also Iceland’s National Day, or independence day. While home rule was achieved in the early 20th century, full independence from Denmark wasn’t declared until 1944, which puts it well within living memory. (The king of Denmark responded with a congratulatory telegram. Being under house arrest by the Germans at the time, I suppose that was about all he could do.)

We slept late, lingered over breakfast and books at the guesthouse, and eventually, early in the afternoon, headed out into town to watch the festivities. (We’d decided that joining in the local celebrations might be stretching the bounds of do-nothing day, but only a little, and not so far that we were about to miss out on same.) I left the camera behind, taking a day off from picture-taking, too.

The festivities began by the city square, with lots of formal speeches by local officials. We understood none of the words, of course, but we didn’t need to; the tone of such things is the same everywhere, I think. The adults stood listening, while the kids ran around, trailing helium balloons decorated with Barbie and Spiderman. There were hot dogs and sodas, too. I’ve grown quite fond of Icelandic hot dogs.

After the speeches there were some musical performance, probably patriotic music, though we weren’t quite sure. After the music, the local Scouts (girls and boys are part of the same organization in Iceland) did a flag ceremony, which was fun for me, as a Scout leader, to watch. Then a woman in historical costume read a poem, per tradition; and the national anthem was sung. Then everyone headed, en masse, from city hall to the town square, forming a sort of parade through the town.
In the town square there were performances: students from the local dance school (modern dance, including one very young break dancer); story tellers; teen clowns making jokes we didn’t understand. Didn’t care that we didn’t understand. We were having fun in spite of–or more likely because of–the fact. More hot dogs and sodas were sold, along with cotton candy (candy flosi).
And sugar in general–lollipops, ice cream, and so on. The amount of sugar consumed by the children this day was truly staggering. 🙂 I don’t know that some of the younger ones were ever without sugar in some form.

Late afternoon things broke up for a while–by then the local grill/ice cream shop was doing a booming business–and then, in the evening, there was a professional band and a dance.

The singer was fabulous. The time for official music was long past now; she focused on pop and disco, which could have sounded incredibly painful, but with her voice and attitude was terrific fun instead. Much of the music was in English; I don’t think I’d quite appreciated before that English in the language of cheesy pop music, but here in this northern town, it was.

There is something very, very strange about hearing someone belt out “Play that funky music white boy …” in a town where, well, it’s pretty much all white boys. (Well, not all. Ísafjörður does have a Thai population, and a few Hispanic residents as well. But even so.)

The Hokey Pokey, on the other hand, was translated into Icelandic. Which made that even more surreal.

The children got up on stage and danced. After a while, the younger teens danced, too, in front of the stage. The adults didn’t dance, just some foot tapping here and there, but somehow one got the impression they were having fun, too.

Occasionally, a bicycle would cross the square. No one seemed to mind.

At 10:30, when the concert ended, the kids were still wide awake, still dancing, pouring sugar from the local equivalent of pixie sticks into their mouths. When we headed into bed around midnight, young teens were still roaming the streets, still consuming lollipops. Still celebrating.

A fun way to spend a day off. 🙂

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