National day. June 17. Celebrated each year to commemorate the day when Iceland officially declared its independence from Denmark in 1944. It’s a big day for the people of this country and there are celebrations ALL DAY LONG. It starts with a ceremonial laying of a wreath at the grave of Jón Sigurðsson, leader of the independence movement. Then, at 10am, an official programme commences at Austurvöllur square in front of the Parliament building, with speeches and such. The President lays a wreath by the statue of Jón Sigurðsson, there is [choral] singing and whatnot, and then the ‘fjallkona’ appears – ‘the maid of the mountain’ – image of Iceland’s national identity, similar to the French Marianne. Traditionally there is an actress chosen to represent the fjallkona, and there is always quite a lot of secrecy beforehand about who it will be that particular year. The fjallkona, dressed in Iceland’s national costume, recites a poem. This ceremony ends with a church service in the Dómkirkja cathedral.

That’s when the more rambunctious celebrations get underway. All day there are myriad things happening in town – in the afternoon they tend to be geared towards families, with parades, toys and outdoor activities for the kids, plus street theatre, different performances on various stages set up all over town, food stands and generally a carnival atmosphere. You’ll typically see lots of parents pushing strollers around and copious amounts of helium balloons unwittingly flying into the air.

The big party begins in the evening, however, with concerts all over. Without fail these are Iceland’s best bands playing [in rotation], and the mood is generally wild. The town fills up with people [some in various stages of drunkenness] partying long into the long summer night. The official party finishes at 10pm, but of course it typically goes on much longer than that.

EPI and I are slightly woolly in the head following last night’s festivities, however, and are about to embark on a run in an effort to clear the cobwebs. Then there’s a little birthday gathering at his sister’s place, after which we’ll be sure to head into town. Poor little AAH, however, is feeling poorly [didn’t even make it to the party last night] so may just miss all the fun. Boo.

The weather is excellent – not a cloud in the sky and temps forecast around 18°C. Whoever claimed it was going to rain today was obviously wrong. [Ahem.] Sun came up at 02.55, will go down at 24.03 just as the party is at its height. Yowsa!