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Iceland National Day


The fierce spirit of Iceland’s people and culture is embodied in the celebrations of Icelandic National Day, which is celebrated every year on June 17. Parades and march pasts are held, along with theatrical, dance and musical performances. These events highlight the vivacity of the culture of this European nation.



The Icelandic National Day is celebrated on June 17 every year. This day commemorates the formation of the Republic of Iceland in 1944. The date was selected as it is Jón Sigurdsson's birthday. Sigurdsson is a major figure of Iceland's culture and a prominent leader in the Icelandic Independence Movement of the 19th century.

Iceland National Day Celebrations


The Icelanders celebrate Icelandic National Day on a grand scale. Parades are held in major cities, especially its capital Reykjavik, and are headed by brass bands. The celebrations also feature flag bearers who are part of the Icelandic scout movement. The brass band is often preceded by riders on Icelandic horses. Once the parades are over, several speeches are given. One of the speeches is delivered by Fjallkonan, or the woman of the mountain. The Fjallkonan wears a Skautbuningur, a national costume worn by Icelandic ladies and recites a poem. She embodies the fierce aspects of Iceland's nature. This tradition is steeped in the romantic traditions of the period when the initial steps towards independence were taken. Once the speeches and other formalities are over, the informal celebrations start with musical performances that are meant to entertain the crowd. Children have a field day and get to eat as many candies as they can think of. Gas filled balloons are flown in the sky. Rain is expected on this day and more so in the Southwestern part of the country. Street theater and dance shows are also held in the capital to mark the occasion.

History


On December 1, 1918, the Danish–Icelandic Act of Union was signed and Iceland became a separate state under the Danish crown. However, either party had the right to call for a review of the treaty. If there was no outcome on negotiations about the treaty’s renewal at the end of 25 years (1943), then the act could be dissolved. In 1944, Iceland, which at that time was occupied by the U.S.A., severed ties with Denmark in a plebiscite. The King of Denmark, Christian X, was heartbroken after the results of the plebiscite were declared but still sent a letter on June 17, 1944, to congratulate Icelanders on forming a Republic. However, the removal of monarchy did little to change the country's constitution and the term King was replaced with President. The people of Iceland, however, were jubilant after the long battle for absolute independence concluded. They heaped praises on Jón Sigurdsson for the role he played in the nationalist movement and Sveinn Bjornsson who was Iceland's first President.

Challenges facing Iceland


Iceland, along with Ireland and the United Kingdom, has disputed the claim of Denmark that the continental shelf of Faroe Islands goes beyond 200 nautical miles. In recent times Iceland has been affected badly by the recent global financial meltdown. Its banking system failed at that period and this led to serious economic issues. This crisis has caused the national government to collapse and many people have moved away to Norway.

Environmentalists have criticized the country’s geothermal and hydroelectric schemes and a major aluminium smelter project on the grounds that they are being pushed at the expense of the wildlife habitats.

Facts


In 1970, Iceland joined the European Free Trade Association (EFTA).

In 1980, Vigdis Finnbogadottir became the first woman president of the country.

In 1985, Iceland declared itself a nuclear-free zone.

In November 2004, the Grimsvotn volcano erupted. Aircrafts were diverted as the ash was scattered as far as Finland. No casualties were reported as the volcano was located in a remote part of the country.

On September 30, 2006, the US military personnel left the Keflavik base. This ended the presence of US military in the country dating back to 1951.

In 2008, in an effort to stabilize the financial system that was badly affected by the global financial crisis, the government took control of three major banks of the country.

In July 2009, after parliament voted in favor of accession, Iceland formally applied for EU membership.

In March 2010, the Eyjafjallajokull glacier in southern Iceland erupted. A cloud of volcanic ash spread across Europe leading to the grounding of civil airline flights throughout the continent. This led to major transport disruption for several months.

In July 2010, formal talks on Iceland's accession to EU began.

In September 2011, the ex-premier of Iceland, Geir Haarde, appeared in court on charges of failing to handle the 2008 financial crisis.

In 2015, a new conservative and Eurosceptic government, which was elected in 2013, withdrew the country’s EU membership application.

Trivia


1. Hvannadalshnukur (2,119m) is the highest point in Iceland

2. Vatnajokull glacier in Southeast Iceland is Europe’s largest glacier

3. The English word "geyser" comes from Iceland's Great Geysir in Haukadalur

4. The Althingi, Iceland's parliament, is the oldest extant parliamentary institution in the world.

5. Iceland is said to have the world's highest number of writers, authors and artists per capita.

6. The Icelandic Phallological Museum houses the world's largest display of penises and penile parts.



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