Return of the Sun Celebrated in Iceland Skip to content

Return of the Sun Celebrated in Iceland

This morning the skammdegi (“short-days period”) peaked at the winter solstice at 5:30 am, after which the sun begins to move northwards and the days grow longer again; in Reykjavík, the first day after the winter solstice is nine seconds longer.


A different pagan ceremony in Iceland. Copyright: Icelandic Photo Agency.

“It can happen at four dates from December 20 to 23; it’s because of the leap years that it happens at these four different days,” astronomer Þorsteinn Sæmundsson told Morgunblaðið.

The shortest day of the year is only four hours and nine minutes long. From today onwards, it will grow longer until peaking at 21 hours at the summer solstice in June.

Today, sunrise was at 11:23 am in Reykjavík in the southwest and sunset will happen at 3:31 pm. In Ísafjörður, in the northern West Fjords, the sun rose at 12:10 pm and will set at 2:53 pm.

Inhabitants of Siglufjörður in north Iceland saw the sun rise at 11:55 am and will see it set at 2:34 pm and in Djúpivogur, in the southeast, sunrise was at 11:01 am and sunset is scheduled at 2:51 pm.

According to, the winter solstice was the most festive celebration in ancient times in the northern hemisphere. At this time of year, people celebrated the return of the sun, but with Christianity it turned into a celebration of the nativity.

In England, enthusiasts of ancient beliefs will gather at Stonehenge today and in Iceland, Ásatrúarfélagið, which honors the old Norse religion, will celebrate the winter solstice with a special ceremony.

The society’s Yule celebration begins with a ceremony in Öskjuhlíð in Reykjavík near the café Nauthóll at 6 pm and continues with a feast in the evening.

Click here to watch a video of a pagan ceremony.


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