Is there such thing as summer in Iceland? Well, sort of. Maybe? Yes! Let us explain.
Every year, the first Thursday after April 18th (which this year happens to be April 19th funnily enough) is celebrated as the first day of summer in Iceland (Sumardagurinn fyrsti in Icelandic). Yes, we know what you’re thinking: does Iceland even have summer? Is that even a thing?
A Land of Two Seasons
In the rest of the northern hemisphere the first official day of summer is the 21st June, where the first day of Spring is the 21st March, so the arrival of the Icelandic summer is a little bit closer to spring.
That being said, Iceland can be cleanly split into two seasons, with the shoulder periods being a kind of tug-of-war: snow one day, warm sunshine the next. So we have winter and summer, and around about now, in April, is when it starts to feel a bit more summery. There are buds on the trees, the grass is a bit greener. That kind of thing.
Summer all the same!
Summer is a relative concept in Iceland in Iceland, and for us it really FEELS like summer. The days are now super bright with much more than 12 hours of daylight and the weather is, in general, much much better than during the winter. The air warmer too, temperatures are close to double digits in Celsius in the capital and there’s generally a good vibe around. People are friendlier, coming out of the hunkering down that takes places over the winter.
A National Celebration
Sumardagurinn fyrsti is a national celebration in Iceland. People have even given presents to each other on the first day of summer, much like Christmas! In fact, the practice of exchanging gifts even predates Christmas by 400 years! These days however its less of a big deal and there isn’t quite the exchange of presents that there once was, than Christmas. And it is also a public holiday!
Parades are held in every town all over the country, and it is generally a great day to be out (even though the weather is usually not good on the first day of summer – go figure). This day is dedicated to children and they are the ones that primarily lead the parades on this day.
Gleðilegt sumar! Happy first day of summer!
If you happen to be in Reykjavik, make sure you hang around, walk and town and check all the different things going on. If you’re not in Reykjavík and find yourself in another town, make sure you stop and see what they’re up to! It’s an important part of Icelandic culture to celebrate the first day of summer. Remember to wish people “Gleðilegt sumar!”