A couple of weeks ago Elín wrote a blog about the advent of spring, as marked by the arrival of the Golden Plover. Well, on April 23rd, we will celebrate the First Day of Summer. What poetic omens do we have for the start of summertime, you might ask? The coming of the Minke Whales maybe, or having more than 16 hours of daylight?
Nothing so fancy this time around. We basically just picked a day and said “aaand … nnow it’s the first day of summer.” My theory is that it’s because in Iceland, there’s rather little temperature difference between summer and winter (about 20°C difference), and the weather being what it is sometimes, we basically just have to decide that now it’s summer, because otherwise you might be left wondering till autumn comes along.
The first day of summer takes place on the first Thursday after April 18th, because why wouldn’t it?
…No, okay, actually that was the first day of the month of Harpa in the old Norse calendar, which divided the year into only 2 seasons: summer and winter. According to ancient superstition, if the summer and winter “freeze together” (meaning the night leading up to the first day of summer is frosty), it is an omen of, strangely enough, a good, warm summer. These days if the night before is frosty it’s mostly an omen of lots of sarcastic Facebook posts, and possibly that you changed out your winter tires too early.
Icelanders generally celebrate the coming of summer by wearing shorts and a T-shirt, and going for an ice-cream drive – completely regardless of whether the weather actually permits this (it’s about the principle of the thing!). In addition, you will see scout troupes and brass bands on parade, everyone gets the day off and there are usually regional school-based celebrations in each neighborhood focusing on kids and families. The rest of us generally just use the day to nap or hit the town.