Sautján Júni. (Soi-tjown Yoo-nie). We kept saying it all day because it has such a ring to it. Basically, June 17th is Icelandic Independence Day. Like 4th of July, minus the fireworks. We started out the day going to one of the suburbs to partake in the festivities. I saw a schedule of events that boasted of games and kids activities, but when we arrived at the Viking Village to participate, they wouldn’t let us in to the “fair grounds” unless we paid. BOO. We decided to skip it and head early to the park where the gospel fest was going on (that we were performing in for 30 minutes…amazing experience by the way).
On our way we noticed a large crowd gathering at the top of a hill. Some people were standing and waiting along the road, and it looked as though a parade was about to happen. I asked someone if my suspicion was true and he confirmed it, so we sat down on the curb awaiting our first Icelandic parade. As I sat, I thought about how this would be fun and festive…almost like the Fredericksburg Fourth of July parade.
A horn sounded, and the parade started toward us. There were ten people, dressed in traditional clothes, proudly carrying Icelandic flags. I thought of how strange it felt to be celebrating another country’s independence. Next, a band composed of roughly 15 people marched past, playing what we assumed to be the national anthem. I was still reflecting on how foreign it felt to not hear our national anthem or how strange it was not to see our flag. After the band passed, the strangest thing happened. What seemed to be the entire town marched right behind them. The whole street and sidewalk was jammed with people joining this…thing. We were literally sitting on the curb, looking up as hundreds and hundreds of people walked around us to follow the “parade” as it went down the street. I started laughing out loud in disbelief. All the people who had been standing on the side of the street watching, joined in to march through town. What in the world was happening? My laughter got harder as Colby leaned over and said, “I feel like a rock stuck in the middle of a river.” I literally could not stop laughing as Darcy started whimpering, Haley asked in confusion, “Is this a parade?“, and Colby stood up to go to the side of the road where he was not in danger of being trampled.
So there you had it. Our first Icelandic parade. No floats. No people spinning around on weird bicycles. No candy being thrown. No clowns. No shriners. No one showing off their yellow mustang. No fancy hub-bub. Just a community marching around their town, celebrating in their own unique way their gratitude for freedom and life. I love it.