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25 December 2022

CHRISTMAS TRADTIONS: HOW TO CELEBRATE NEW YEAR’S EVE IN ICELAND

Firework display at Hallgrímskirkja Church.
Fireworks on New Year´s eve at Hallgrímskirkja Church in Reykjavik.

Have you ever seen a firework show where almost an entire nation is involved? Well, we have, and you can too if you celebrate New Year's Eve in Iceland.

New Year's eve is one of the most exciting nights in Iceland.In order for you to enjoy it we´re going over some of the most fun and important New Year's traditions in Iceland.

500 tons of Fireworks  

It is fair to call the New Year's eve celebration in Iceland a total madness. Every year there are about 500 tons of fireworks fired up in Iceland in a span of just a few minutes.

Perhaps the craziest part of this New Year's madness is that these fireworks are bought, and fired up, by families and individuals all over Iceland. 

That’s right. In Iceland you can buy your own fireworks from special stores which are only open around New Year´s. They are mostly sold to support public programs and organizations, most notably the search and rescue teams.  

How is New Year's celebrated in Iceland? 

Just like on Christmas, there are traditions in Iceland when it comes to celebrating the new year. Some of which are unique and are only found in Iceland.

Celebrating the new year isn't just about watching fireworks and ringing in the new year at midnight. There is a bit more to it than that.

SEE ALSO: ALL YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT FOOD AND DRINKS IN ICELAND

For most the New Year’s Eve schedule usually starts with dinner at around 18:00. There is no official New Year's Eve meal. But it is a big holiday where friends and families come together, so something fancy like turkey, or a roast is usually served. 

Tradition in Iceland.
Going to a bonfire is a tradtion in Iceland on New Year´s Eve.

New Year’s Eve Bonfires

Once dinner is over many turn to the TV to watch the news chronicles for the year. Others go to a bonfire.

Bonfires are a big part of the New Year’s celebration in Iceland. These are large bonfires created for the whole community and regulated by authorities. Anyone can attend and participate in watching the flames. This is usually followed by singing traditional Icelandic songs, about elves and hidden people.     

New Year's Eve bonfires are found in various places in Reykjavik and other towns around Iceland. It often depends on weather if they are scheduled and how big they are. 

Although you might see or hear some fireworks at that time, just wait. The firework display has yet to start.

An hour of total silence

At exactly 22:30 everything suddenly goes quiet. Because that is when one of the most important parts of the New Year’s celebration in Iceland starts. 

Every year the National Broadcast Service in Iceland, RÚV, makes a special comedy show called “Áramótaskaupið”. In this comedy show, Icelandic comedians make fun of big events from the past year. 

It is usually the most viewed tv-program in Iceland each year. With a rating as high as 90%. When the show is aired the streets go empty and not a single firework lights up the night sky.

Family watching the comedy special at New year´s eve.
Everyone in Iceland sits infront of the tv to see the New Year´s comedy special. 

When does the Firework show start? 

At around 23:30 or as soon as the comedy show ends, Icelanders start to light up their fireworks. 

Within minutes waves after waves of fireworks light up the night sky. Reaching its climax at midnight. 

If you are in a city the loud noises and smell from the fireworks becomes overwhelming as we blast into the new year with tons of fireworks blowing up every second. It is absolutely incredible to witness!

The best place to see the fireworks in Iceland

If you're on a winter holiday and enjoy fireworks, Reykjavik is the best place in Iceland to experience New Year's Eve. It is simply where the most action is and you will witness the most amazing fireworks displays. 

Anywhere within the capital area is a good spot to see fireworks at New Year´s. But we do recommend heading to Hallgrímskirkja Church at Skólavörðuholt.

SEE ALSO:  WHAT TO DO IN REYKJAVIK? OUR TOP PLACES TO VISIT

Many people gather there to witness the fireworks and to light them up, as it is an open area in downtown Reykjavik. But you can also simply step outside anywhere in the city to witness the fireworks. We promise you won’t miss it and it will be an incredible experience!

Bonfire and fireworks at midnight.
The New Year is celebrated with bonfires and fireworks in Iceland. 

Are there New Year’s Eve parties in Iceland?

Icelanders like going out and continue celebrating the New Year after the fireworks. In downtown Reykjavik many bars are open late into the night. If you want to party with the locals, that's where you should go.

Just be careful and keep in mind that Elves and Hidden people are known for appearing on New Year’s night and they are nothing to mess with. 

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