New Years’ Eve in Iceland, that is. For those of you who don’t know, fireworks are sold unrestricted to the general public here (well, you have to be at least 16 to buy them) and you can believe that there’s a fairly large demographic (read: young males who always manage to get hold of some, somehow) that simply itches in the skin for the sales to begin. The days leading up to the main event are fraught with random jump-out-of-your-skin-and-scream bangs, like gunshots going off outside your window several times a day. It may sound like a real blast (yuk yuk) but I’m here to tell you it ain’t. At least not when you’re past the age of 20, or thereabouts. Which Yours Truly is.

Meanwhile, tourists are being transported in by the planeful to catch a part of tomorrow’s action. Visitors numbers are up by a whopping 40% from last year, mostly Brits, Japanese and Americans, which in light of last year probably means there’ll be more tourists than Icelanders milling about. Which is all good and fine. The more the merrier, that’s my motto.

Now lest any of you wonder exactly what constitutes this spectacle of which I speak, here is a brief account of New Years Eve as Celebrated by the Average Icelandic Family in the Greater Reykjavík Area. (Ahem).

First, there’s a big and festive dinner, often involving party hats, balloons and crackers, and almost certainly booze. After dinner, party-hat-clad people head out to one of the huge bonfires scattered about the city where they meander about (some very drunkenly) and say hello to a bunch of their friends/acquaintances/neighbours. Now, these bonfires are not the hot-dog cookin’, marshmallow roasting, campfire kind. These are BIG bonfires, strictly controlled and all that, and in case you didn’t catch it the whole symbolism thing is the old year going up in flames. Oh, and people may or may not set off the odd firecracker or two while there.

So when people have had enough of this outdoor fireside mingling, getting one side of themselves scorched while the other side freezes, they head back home for the (almost) highlight of the evening which is… the Áramótaskaup! A one-hour television programme where the country’s best comedians do a send-up of all the main events/people of the year. In a country as small as this one (pop. 290,000 for those who’ve just joined us) everybody knows everybody’s business and everybody can laugh at the same jokes. Now, while it is on, the streets are absolutely deserted because this is compulsory viewing, being the subject of water cooler/coffee room discussions well into January. Whether the Skaup was any good this year, whether it was better than last year, everyone’s favourite little skit… that type of thing. And I have to say it does give you a warm, fuzzy feeling, sharing that hour with everybody in the country. Except the poor foreigners, of course, who sit and scratch their heads and wonder where all them fun-loving Icelanders went.

But when the Skaup is over – lookout! Mass exodus out onto the streets, especially up onto the nearest hill in any given neighbourhood, to LET THE PYROTECHNICS RIP!! AND THEY DO! AND EVERYBODY GOES OOOHH!! AND AAAHH!! AND IS SHOUTING FOR DAYS AFTERWARDS BECAUSE THEY CAN’T HEAR A THING! This lasts for about half an hour and what a wild and crazy show it is! None of those homogenized oh-so-perfectly planned firework displays for us, no sir. We prefer the do-it-yourself version.

So there you have it. And now all you Kiefer Sutherland fans Understand why Kief and co have chosen this as their Location of Choice to make a smooth and seamless transition into the New Year. Well, maybe. Because after all this is over, the partying starts downtown. And I don’t wanna even go there because, well, I just don’t go there. Prolly ‘cause I’m chicken. Very Drunken People have the ability to put me on edge just a wee bit. Besides the fact that they generally bore me to tears. So I tend to steer clear of the madness that is Reykjavík nightlife on New Years Eve.


Of course all Proper Icelanders are anxiously biting their nails – or should be – hoping the weather will cooperate. ‘Cause it doesn’t look too good. Looks like we may have wind. Meaning firecrackers getting blown horizontally across the sky. Or up people’s winter coats. Or their noses. Whatever. Wind is not cool. We want calm. And no snow, either, at midnight. Snow can come before or after, but not at midnight. ‘Cause if there’s snow we can’t see a damn thing. And that sort of defeats the purpose (especially when you’ve spent billions of Icelandic crowns on fireworks, like the Icelanders do each year).

And so… have a safe and happy New Years Eve, everyone!