Local Celebrations And Holidays: What To Expect In Iceland - Answers & Video

Local Celebrations And Holidays: What To Expect In Iceland

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Local Celebrations and Holidays: What to Expect in Iceland

Iceland is known for its unique and vibrant celebrations and holidays throughout the year. From traditional Icelandic festivals to international events, there is always something happening in this beautiful Nordic island nation. In this article, we will explore twelve different celebrations and holidays in Iceland, providing you with detailed information about each event and what you can expect when visiting.

Winter Lights Festival

The Winter Lights Festival is a popular event held in Reykjavik, the capital city of Iceland, during the darkest period of winter. The festival aims to illuminate the city with various light installations, concerts, and cultural events. Visitors can enjoy guided tours, art exhibitions, and performances, all showcasing the beauty of light during the winter months.

  • Illuminated Landmarks: The city’s landmarks, such as Harpa Concert Hall and Hallgrímskirkja Church, are beautifully lit up, creating a magical atmosphere.
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  • Cultural Performances: Traditional Icelandic music, dance, and theater performances take place throughout the festival, showcasing the country’s rich cultural heritage.
  • Light Installations: Various light installations transform the cityscape, creating a stunning visual experience for visitors.


Þorrablót is an ancient Icelandic midwinter festival that celebrates the arrival of the month of Þorri in the traditional Icelandic calendar. During this festival, Icelanders gather to enjoy traditional Icelandic food and drinks, including fermented shark, pickled ram’s testicles, and dried fish. It is a unique cultural experience that allows visitors to taste traditional Icelandic cuisine.

  • Traditional Icelandic Food: Þorrablót is known for its traditional dishes, which may seem unusual to some visitors. It is an opportunity to try authentic Icelandic cuisine.
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  • Live Music and Dancing: The festival often includes live music performances and traditional Icelandic folk dancing, providing entertainment throughout the evening.
  • Community Gathering: Þorrablót is a time for Icelanders to come together and celebrate their cultural heritage, creating a strong sense of community.

Sonar Reykjavik

Sonar Reykjavik is an annual music festival that brings together international and Icelandic artists in a celebration of electronic music. The festival takes place in various venues across Reykjavik and attracts music enthusiasts from around the world.

  • International and Icelandic Artists: Sonar Reykjavik showcases a diverse lineup of both international and Icelandic electronic music artists, providing a unique blend of talent.
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  • Multiple Stages and Venues: The festival utilizes various venues in Reykjavik, allowing attendees to explore different musical experiences throughout the event.
  • Artistic Installations: Sonar Reykjavik incorporates visual and interactive art installations, creating an immersive environment for festival-goers.

Reykjavik Arts Festival

The Reykjavik Arts Festival is one of the most significant cultural events in Iceland. It showcases a wide range of artistic disciplines, including visual arts, music, dance, and theater. The festival attracts both local and international artists, making it a melting pot of creativity.

  • Exhibitions and Performances: The Reykjavik Arts Festival presents exhibitions, concerts, dance performances, and theater shows, offering a diverse program for art enthusiasts.
  • Collaborations with International Artists: The festival often collaborates with renowned international artists, fostering cultural exchange and promoting Icelandic art on a global scale.
  • Public Art Installations: Reykjavik becomes a canvas for various public art installations during the festival, transforming the city into an open-air gallery.

Independence Day

Independence Day, or Icelandic National Day, is celebrated on June 17th each year to commemorate Iceland’s independence from Denmark in 1944. The day is filled with festivities, parades, and cultural events across the country.

  • Parades and Processions: Colorful parades and processions take place in major cities and towns, featuring music, traditional costumes, and floats.
  • Concerts and Performances: Independence Day celebrations include live music concerts, dance performances, and theater shows, showcasing Icelandic talent.
  • Fireworks Displays: The day concludes with spectacular fireworks displays in various locations, lighting up the night sky.

Reykjavik Pride

Reykjavik Pride is an annual LGBTQ+ celebration that promotes equality and human rights. The festival includes a variety of events, such as a parade, concerts, parties, and educational activities.

  • Pride Parade: The highlight of Reykjavik Pride is the vibrant parade that winds through the city streets, spreading love, acceptance, and inclusivity.
  • Concerts and Performances: Reykjavik Pride features live music concerts, drag shows, and other performances that celebrate the LGBTQ+ community.
  • Community Engagement: The festival encourages community engagement through workshops, discussions, and educational activities promoting LGBTQ+ rights and awareness.

Christmas and New Year’s Eve

Christmas and New Year’s Eve are widely celebrated in Iceland, with various traditions and customs unique to the country.

  • Christmas Markets: Festive Christmas markets pop up across the country, offering local crafts, food, and drinks.
  • Puffin Hunting: On Christmas Day, Icelanders participate in a traditional game called “Puffin Hunting,” where children knock on doors, recite poems, and receive treats.
  • New Year’s Eve Bonfires: Icelanders gather around bonfires on New Year’s Eve to bid farewell to the old year and welcome the new one.

Reykjavik International Film Festival

The Reykjavik International Film Festival (RIFF) is an annual event that brings together filmmakers, industry professionals, and film enthusiasts from around the world. The festival showcases a diverse selection of international and Icelandic films.

  • Film Screenings: RIFF screens a wide range of films, including feature-length movies, documentaries, and short films, providing a platform for emerging filmmakers.
  • Q&A Sessions and Workshops: The festival organizes Q&A sessions with directors and hosts workshops and seminars for aspiring filmmakers.
  • Awards and Competitions: RIFF presents awards in various categories, recognizing outstanding contributions to the world of cinema.


Þjóðhátíð, also known as the “Festival of the Nation,” is an annual outdoor cultural festival held in the Westman Islands. It attracts thousands of visitors who come to enjoy live music, traditional Icelandic food, and a vibrant atmosphere.

  • Concerts and Singing: Þjóðhátíð features live music performances and group singing, creating a sense of unity and celebration.
  • Traditional Food Stalls: Visitors can indulge in traditional Icelandic food, such as grilled lamb, fish, and local delicacies.
  • Fireworks Display: The festival concludes with a spectacular fireworks display, lighting up the night sky above the Westman Islands.

Reykjavik Marathon

The Reykjavik Marathon is an annual running event that attracts participants from around the world. The race offers various distances, including a full marathon, half marathon, and shorter fun runs.

  • Scenic Routes: The marathon takes participants through the beautiful landscapes surrounding Reykjavik, providing stunning views along the way.
  • Support and Atmosphere: Spectators line the streets, cheering on the runners and creating a lively and supportive atmosphere.
  • Post-Race Celebrations: After crossing the finish line, participants can enjoy post-race celebrations, including live music, food stalls, and relaxation areas.

Midnight Sun Run

The Midnight Sun Run is a unique running event that takes place in Reykjavik during the summer solstice. Participants have the opportunity to run under the midnight sun, experiencing the extraordinary phenomenon of continuous daylight.

  • Running in Daylight: The Midnight Sun Run offers a rare experience of running in bright daylight at midnight, creating a surreal atmosphere.
  • Family-Friendly Event: The race welcomes participants of all ages and fitness levels, promoting a sense of inclusivity and community.
  • Post-Race Festivities: After the run, participants can enjoy live music, entertainment, and food stalls, celebrating their achievement under the midnight sun.


Iceland’s local celebrations and holidays offer a glimpse into the country’s rich cultural heritage and provide visitors with unique experiences. From the Winter Lights Festival to the Midnight Sun Run, each event showcases Iceland’s natural beauty, artistic talent, and vibrant community spirit. Whether you’re interested in music, art, food, or outdoor activities, Iceland’s celebrations and holidays have something for everyone.


  • Visit Reykjavik: visitreykjavik.is
  • Icelandic Tourist Board: inspiredbyiceland.com
  • Reykjavik Arts Festival: artfest.is
  • Reykjavik International Film Festival: riff.is
  • Reykjavik Marathon: marathon.is
  • Midnight Sun Run: marathon.is

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