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When in Iceland, do as the Icelanders do

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Although Iceland’s Independence Day is actually on Dec. 1, Icelanders always celebrate it on June 17.


There are at least a couple of reasons for this.


First, June 17 is the birthday of the man, Jon Sigurdsson, who was instrumental in gaining independence for Iceland from Denmark.


Second, Dec. 1 is not a good day to celebrate as the weather might not co-operate. It is much nicer to have an outside theatre in the park and a parade through the city streets on a sunny day in the summer than on a cold winter day.


I celebrated this past June 17 with the people of Akureyri, which is a beautiful city in northeast Iceland. It was a beautiful, sunny day, about 18 C, with a bit of a breeze that cooled things down. Celebrations began with a play, called Gilitrutt, for children and adults in a grove at the city park, Listagardurinn.


Gilitrutt was performed by a troupe called Leikhopurinn Lotta. They are a group of enthusiastic actors who travel all summer long performing the play in towns and cities all over Iceland and are very popular.


Gilitrutt is a troll who likes to steal children who have been naughty, put them in her bag and carry them up to her mountain den. She might even eat them if she is really hungry.
This story was all about how the people and the goats were able to fool Gilitrutt so she never did get any children or goats to eat. The story had a happy ending. Children and adults enjoyed the play and cheered enthusiastically.


Shortly after the play finished, a parade began from Listagardurinn to City Hall downtown Akureyri. The scouts group Klakkur and the brass band from Akureyri’s School of Music lead the parade. Hundreds of people joined in, walking through the city.


Akureyri, the Capital of North Iceland, sits at the base of the fjord Eyjafjordur. The fjord about 60 km long from the mouth to the base. Personally I think Akureyri is one of the most beautiful cities in Iceland.


The weather tends to be balmy and the sun seems to shine there more often than not. It is a beautiful place, built on a hilly side of the mountains with the fjord on the other side.


You can find more information about Akureyri at wikipedia.org/wiki/Akureyri


Arny Hjaltadottir is a community correspondent for the West End.

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