June 17: Iceland Celebrates Independence

All across Iceland, the island nation’s citizens celebrate their independence with a nationwide party. A parade in Reykjavík kicks off a day of festivities in the capital city which includes street fairs, carnival rides, brass bands and even an accordion dance party.

The rest of the country celebrates national independence with a Viking festival in Hafnarfjörður,  and a brass band parade in Akureyri followed by an afternoon of live music, dance groups, face painting and other children’s activities.

Iceland began its settlement period led by powerful regional chieftains. They needed to find a way to provide governance for the entire country. Their solution was the formation of the first European parliament, the Althingi in 930 CE. The system worked well until power struggles amongst the leaders led to an alliance with the Norwegian crown in 1262 in hopes a more peaceful future. This alliance made Iceland a colony of Norway, and later Denmark.

statue of Jón Sigurðsson at Austurvollur square

Statue of Jón Sigurðsson at Austurvollur square

Iceland remained a colony for centuries, but a growing national movement began in the 19th century, led by Jón Sigurðsson and others. In 1874, Iceland celebrated the thousand year anniversary of the island’s settlement. King Christian IX of Denmark presented the country with a limited constitution on August 2, 1874. Sigurðsson urged the Icelandic leaders to accept it as the first step to full independence.

When Germany invaded Denmark and Norway in 1940, the crown fell and was no longer able to fulfill the royal obligations to Iceland. The parliament voted to assume the royal duties and functions. As the war grew and British troops occupied the nation and were later replaced by U.S. troops, the small country was thrust onto the world stage. In order to represent the Icelandic nation, the local government proclaimed the Republic of Iceland on June 17, 1944.

June 17, 2020 is the eightieth anniversary of Iceland’s modern nationhood. It also marks the fifth anniversary of the Icelandic National League of the United States (INLUS).  Although still a young organization, we are proud of the programs we have sponsored, the funds we have donated to local causes and the partnerships we have created with our members and friends during our first five years. We continue to grow and just welcomed our newest local Icelandic organization member in Colorado!

We invite everyone to celebrate with the people of Iceland today.   We encourage those who appreciate all things Icelandic, living in the United States or elsewhere, to consider becoming a part of our family by becoming a member of the INLUS.   Check out our website at www.inlus.org to learn more about what we stand for, what we are doing, and where we are headed.