Icelandic Fishermen’s Day: Sjómannadagurinn

Bolungarvík, Iceland, West-fjords, Vestfirðir, fishing villages in Iceland, fishing in Iceland
For as long as Iceland has been inhabited, the Icelanders have fished. Photo: Hilmir Berg

It is safe to say that life in Iceland would not have been possible without the gifts of the ocean. And yet, these gift were not easy to reach. Although fishing has of course become much safer in recent years, it is still fraught with danger.

For this reason, the profession of fisherman is a profession that commands respect and admiration, and was (and still is in large part) a huge part of the culture, history and economy of Iceland.

To learn more about the life of Icelandic fishermen’s in the past read our article about the Heroes Of The Sea. 

Fishermen’s Day Celebrated Since 1938

This is why the first Sunday of June, every year, is celebrated as Fishermen’s day in Iceland. Started in 1938, this day is set aside (and sometimes is extended to a weekend) not only in honouring the fisherman of both past and present, including the lives lost at sea: a special mass is held in most towns in remembrance of these heroes of the sea.

The celebrations are the largest in the harbour towns, where all the boats and other vessels dock up for the day, and no fishing takes place. The festivities have the feel of a country fair: boat racing, singing, tug-of-war, lifting, an open-house on many of the boats and plenty of seafood being served up all over the town.

Of all the harbour towns, Reykjavík is the largest, and the festivities take place in the old harbour area, an area that in recent years has become really up-and-coming, filled with new businesses and developments. The streets of the old harbour are lined with a seafood parade and other activities for the whole family. Its great fun to wander down and take in the atmosphere if you happen to be in Reykjavík that day – if you need further info on the program you can find it here. If not, make sure you stop into one of the smaller towns on that day and see what they’re up to!