Happy Summer!

By Rannveig (rannveig) on April 23, 2010

This was the greeting of the day as Icelanders celebrated the first day of summer yesterday. It's a national holiday and children receive summer gifts. Celebrating the beginning of summer when the temperature is still in the 30's might seem exceedingly optimistic. But according to the Old Norse calendar, there were only two seasons, 6 months of winter and 6 months of summer.


So as2010-04-23/rannveig/d9fc80 winter has come to an end, we celebrate the beginning of summer although the warm days of summer are more than a month away.  There‘s even a parade and enter tainments downtown, kind of like a mini-Independence Day celebration.   

The start of summer has been greeted in frost and sno w, wind and rain and occasionally sunny weather like yesterday.  It was chilly (about 34°F), the wind was freezing cold, but in shelter the sun felt nice and warm.  We've usually fired up the grill for the first time on this day, weather permitting, so we grilled hot dogs for lunch and lamb steaks for dinner. We even ate lunch outside in the sun! 

Summer presents are usually some toys for playing outside or summer clothing.  Scooters, in-line skates, bicycles, trampolines are popular presents. Or for those with a tighter budget, balls, chalks, soap bubbles, water pistols or sandbox toys like shovels, buckets etc. 

According to Icelandic folklore it will be a good summer if winter and summer „freeze together“.  There was an overnight freeze this time, so let‘s hope we have a good summer in store.

The Old Norse calendar counts weeks rather than days so each month starts on a certain weekday, rather than a specific date.  Each year was 52 weeks, divided into 12 months, each 30 days.  To even out the fact that the year is slightly longer, there were 4 extra days inserted between certain months. Time wasn't really measured in years, but rather semesters.  Although the old calendar isn‘t used anymore there are certain days still celebrated according to the old calendar, but the first day of summer is the only one that is a national holiday.2010-04-23/rannveig/1eb450

The first day of summer: The first day in Harpa,  the first Thursday after April 18th.

The first day of winter: The Saturday between October 21-28th (first day of Gormánuður)

Bóndadagur (Husband‘s day): The first day in Þorri (Thorri) which is the Friday between January 18-24th.

Konudagur (Wife‘s day): The first day of Góa, a month later, which is the Sunday between February 18-24th.


The 12 months according to the Old Norse calendar are:

Winter: Gormánuður, Ýlir, Mörsugur, Þorri, Góa, Einmánuður

Summer: Harpa, Skerpla, Sólmánuður, Heyannir, Tvímánuður, Haustmánuður

Related articles:
Iceland, Traditions

About Rannveig
Born and raised in Iceland, I found a deeper appreciation for my country after spending 6 years of my teens in the US (Florida). I've been a garden enthusiast since my childhood and love the challenges of gardening in Iceland ..... well, most of the time. I have to admit that slighly longer, warmer summers would not be a bad thing.

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