Ísafjörður Celebrates the Return of Sun

Today is Sólardagur, or Sun Day, the day on which the residents of Ísafjörður in the Westfjords welcome the return of the sun, RÚV reports. During the dark winter days at the end of the year, the sun never crests the top of the mountains that line the Skutulsfjörður fjord. Today, however, the year’s first rays of the sun will shine over Ísafjörður and the village residents will celebrate this ‘sun-coming’ with a Sólarkaffi, or Sun Coffee, of coffee, homemade pancakes, and whipped cream.

“The shortest day of the year is December 21st and then the next time the sun is seen [in Ísafjörður] is January 25th,” explains Guðmundur Fr. Jóhannsson, who is the chairman of a society of Ísafjörður ‘expats’ who live in Reykjavík. “But if we go a just a little further back, it’s actually around November 16th that the sun starts to disappear from Sólgata,” he says, talking about ‘Sun Street,’ which runs through the centre of the village. “So it’s around two months, or 70 days, during which the sun isn’t visible. So there’s a real occasion to celebrate when the sun shines on Sólgata again.”

The Sólarkaffi tradition is so much beloved of Ísafjörður residents—or Ísafirdingar in Icelandic— that even those who have moved away still celebrate it. In fact, The Society of Ísafirðingar in Reykjavík has held its own Sólarkaffi for almost 74 years. “The Society of Ísafirðingar in Reykjavík was founded in April 1945 and held its first Sólarkaffi in 1946. It’s been held continuously ever since,” says Guðmundur. The Reykjavík event began as a simple Sunday afternoon gathering but has since turned into a Friday night dinner and dance. This year’s event will be held at Grand Hotel Reykjavík.

The Society of Ísafirðingar in Reykjavík, which currently boasts almost 600 members, hosts a number of social events throughout the year, as well as keeping a house in Ísafjörður that members can use. Originally, it was founded to ensure that Ísafirðingar didn’t lose touch with their roots, even though they might live somewhere else. The group’s marquee event is the Sólarkaffi, which though a very personal celebration for former residents, is not, Guðmundur hastens to add, an exclusive one. “Obviously everyone is welcome and you don’t have to be a member to [to attend].”