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Why Icelanders Celebrate the 2nd of August

Updated: Jul 26, 2021

Icelanders from all over North America and Iceland attend two important events during the ''2nd of August weekend.'' August the Deuce (2nd of August) is in North Dakota, USA. Islendingadagurinn is in Manitoba, Canada. Many people attend these Icelandic celebrations but they do not know WHY we celebrate. You can read the following article to learn the answers.

By 1874, Iceland had been under harsh Danish rule for hundreds of years and the people wanted their freedom. A man named Jón Sigurðsson was determined to get it for them. The following is excerpted from a booklet called “Solving the Mystery of the 2nd of August” by Sir Magnus Olafson. He discovered the information in a Reflections by the Quill article by Oscar G Johnson. The book is from the Quill Historical Society of Wynyard, Saskatchewan researched and edited by Lillian Thorsteinsson Thorlacius.

Sir Magnus “Mike” Olafson

“Jón Sigurðsson wanted freedom for Iceland from Denmark. He wanted schools in Iceland-a medical college, an agricultural college and other schools. Up to this time, little consideration had been given the people of Iceland by the Danish government. Jón Sigurðsson had moved to Denmark around the year 1830 where he was educated and became a librarian at the King’s Library. He became a member of the Parliament in Iceland. There he became President of the assembly. He hammered away at the Danish government until finally, in January 1874, King Christian IX made the announcement that he would visit Iceland during the summer of 1874, and that he would bring a new constitution for Iceland. For that purpose, the King decreed that the Icelandic Parliament should be called into session from August the first to the seventh.

On August the Second, he asked the Icelandic clergy to have services in every church in the land. On that day, he would hand over the New Constitution to Parliament. Jón Sigurðsson did not attend that session of Parliament but he advised the leaders to accept the constitution, even though it was inadequate, because it was a step in the right direction. But he cautioned the people never to down their desire for independence. His by word was “Aldrei ad vikja” (Never let down). It is known that a small group of Icelandic people who immigrated to Milwaukee, Wisconsin, USA in the early 1870s held a celebration on August 2, 1874, to celebrate this event. It is also known that the Icelandic community of Winnipeg held the first celebration on the second of August in the year 1890 and called it, “The Day of the Icelanders.” While August the second was never declared a legal national holiday in Iceland, this day was celebrated whenever and however small the settlement was, whether in Canada or the United States by the Icelandic settlers who called the second of August, 'The Day of the Icelanders.' Iceland officially declared its independence from Denmark on June 17, 1944 and became a republic.”

I will be at both the Deuce of August and Íslendingadagurinn for their big days. Our Mountain, ND Genealogy Center will be open Thursday, Friday, and Saturday. Four genealogists are volunteering their time to help anyone that walks through the doors. Cathy Josephson - Manager of the East Iceland Emigration Center in Vopnafjörður, Doreen Kristjanson Marston, Ron Baker, and me, Sunna Furstenau - President of the Icelandic Roots Genealogy Database.

Our friends from the INL of Iceland - Þjóðræknisfélag Íslendinga, a wonderful choir from Iceland, and many other friends from Iceland will be here to celebrate. Snorri Program participants will be in attendance. Sharing our heritage with the next generation is so important. Our daughter and her family are able to attend again this year and that is so great.

A huge thank you to everyone that attends and especially those that work to make these events successful and fun!

On Sunday, I will travel to Gimli for the Íslendingadagurinn. The Icelandic National League of North America has a float in the Monday parade. I will ride on it again and enjoy all the fun activities and being with great friends.

smiling faces

Wherever you are this weekend ...... Have a Happy DAY OF THE ICELANDERS!

Email us your questions or join the conversation on our Facebook Group.

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