Today, April 22, is a national holiday in Iceland known as the First Day of Summer (Sumardagurinn fyrsti). In the old Icelandic calendar, this holiday likely marked the beginning of a new year and was celebrated by giving presents. Despite its name, it doesn’t always bring Icelanders warm weather.
While winter is officially over according to the old Icelandic calendar, it is not uncommon to have snow, hail, or freezing temperatures across Iceland on the First Day of Summer. In 1949, the highest recorded temperature in the country on the day of the holiday was -0.2°C (31.6°F), and Reykjavík was blanketed with 4cm (1.6in) of snow. This year’s weather forecast for the holiday includes precipitation across West Iceland – rain in lowland areas and snow at higher elevations in the region. Temperatures will reach a high of around 10°C [50°F] during the day and around freezing at night.
A Holiday Unique to Iceland
“We are the only nation in the world that’s celebrated its own particular first day of summer for 1,000 years,” ethnologist Dr. Árni Björnsson told Iceland Review. “Our ancestors created their own calendar before they knew of the Roman calendar. They split it into two halves: summer and winter.” There are clues suggesting that the First Day of Summer was considered the first day of the year. Ancient Icelanders calculated people’s age by the number of winters they had lived through, a practice that is still upheld in the countryside with horses and other domestic animals.