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Manitoba celebrates Icelandic holiday today

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For people from a small island with a big sense of identity, today is an important day.

Today is Iceland’s national holiday, marked in Manitoba as Jon Sigurdsson Day, celebrating the birthday of the man considered the father of Iceland.

Sigurdsson led a political movement in the second half of the nineteenth century to give Iceland more control over its internal affairs. Following an initial period of independence, Iceland was taken over by Norway and later Denmark. In 1874, Sigurdsson succeeded in getting a limited constitution granted without the spilling of any blood. Full independence followed almost 75 years later, in 1944.

Today, Icelandic Winnipeggers and those who love them can celebrate Iceland at 6:30 p.m. downtown on the legislative grounds near the statue of Jon Sigurdsson. A visiting Icelandic choir will kick things off. Then, at 6:45 p.m., there will be a ceremonial procession of people dressed in traditional Icelandic garb. Governor General David Johnston will speak, as will the Icelandic Consul General, Atli Asmundsson and the Icelandic Ambassador, Svavar Gestsson.

Following the ceremony, there will be a gala concert featuring music and drama. Winnipeg tenor Peter John Buchan will perform as well as a group of Icelandic singers, who will do a piece called the Bustadakirkjukor. There will also be a two-man play that was commissioned especially for the event.

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