A parade files down the streets of Reykjavik as onlookers watch from the sidewalk and open windows nearby. It’s National Day in Iceland, the annual celebration of the country’s independence. Not unlike the Fourth of July in the United States, this annual jamboree of shopping, eating, parties, and merry making is awaited by all.

Festivals are scattered across the city center. Fireworks go off in the evening, but it doesn’t feel like nighttime because of the summer sun, which doesn’t set until nearly midnight. The pyrotechnic lightshow contrasts instead with a seemingly eternal twilight. National Day will be celebrated once again this year on June 17th, 2024. This year marks the 80th anniversary of independence. A lot has changed in Iceland since 1944, but National Day is a timeless look at what Icelandic food, clothing, and music can mean at times of celebration.

A brief history of national days in June

Iceland’s National Day is the annual holiday commemorating the foundation as The Republic of Iceland, which also meant independence from Denmark. And, every year, it’s a cultural passage into the rest of the summer. The Midnight Sun of Iceland wasn’t the reason this date was selected to celebrate independence, however. June 17th was chosen because it’s the birthday of Jón Sigurðsson, an Icelander from the earliest chapter of the independence campaign who pioneered the movement.

Of all the holidays in Iceland, the activities during National Day are, perhaps, the most rooted in Icelandic culture. For example, there’s a committee member chosen from each town to recite a poem at the Reykjavik opening ceremony. Always a woman, these honored committee people are called “Fjallkona” (“woman of the mountain”) and come clad in “Skautbúningur,” an intricate traditional Icelandic costume.

And it’s not only the Fjallkona who dress up. Many Icelanders out enjoying the festivities dress in traditional Icelandic clothing. It’s popular, for example, to wear wool sweaters with traditional Icelandic patterns.

The official program of activities on National Day begins at 10 a.m. in central Reykjavik and continues until 7 p.m. Akureyri and other towns around Iceland have their own programs.

The Iceland population’s preparation for National Day 2024

Some locals might prepare for National Day by treating themselves to new lopi yarn sweaters to show their national pride. Others might prepare a small gathering of family and friends at home before or after the official program of events.

Several years ago, there were more gatherings at home in 2020 due to the pandemic. Since then, National Day has grown again to its pre-pandemic marvel. Some Icelanders even felt that the pandemic helped remind them what’s most important on National Day. Celebrations were reduced to intimate gatherings, but with no shortage of Icelandic clothing, food, and music. These central elements make National Day what it is, especially when shared with loved ones.

If you do plan to be out and about on National Day 2024, all Icewear stores will be open, so be sure to stop by. If you won’t be joining the party in Reykjavik, follow Icewear on social media to see photos and videos of all the fun.