The first Monday of August is Commerce Day, a public holiday in Iceland. This creates a long summer weekend known as Verslunarmannahelgi (merchants’ weekend) and is similar to September’s Labor Day weekend in the United States and Canada. Many people chose this time to go camping or attend festivals and events held around the country.
Commerce Day has been celebrated in Iceland since 1894, with the first observance on Thursday, September 13th, 1894, in Reykjavík. The idea of having a common day off for workers came from Denmark, although it is no longer observed there. Until 1931, the date for Commerce Day was not established, moving between August and September. Now it is always the first Monday in August.
The largest and best-known outdoor festival held during Verslunarmannahelgi is Þjóðhatið í Ejum (Festival of the Nation) in Vestmannaeyjar (the Westman Islands). It is interesting to note that the first Þjóðhatið was held in 1874 as a celebration of the 1,000th anniversary of settlement in Iceland because bad weather made it impossible for residents to travel to the mainland. During Þjóðhatið, the population can almost quadruple to around 16,000 people.
Another popular event during Verslunarmannahelgi is the Innpúkkin Music Festival in downtown Reykjavík. The word ‘Innipúki’ refers to a person who would rather stay inside than venture out, so the concerts are indoors. However, outside the venues, you will find food, art and clothing booths.
Finally, up in the north is the Ein Með Öllu family festival in Akureyri. Here they have entertainment for children, a fairground, concerts, a fundraising event, ‘Moms and Muffins’ (mömmur og möffins). The Icelandic summer games are celebrated with a “footrace” on the church stairs, a bicycle challenge and a tour. The festival finishes with a giant fireworks show.
In the past, there was the European Swamp Soccer Championships (Mýrarboltinn) held in Bolungarvík in the Westfjords/Vestirðir. It has been canceled since 2020 due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
For those of you in Iceland during Verslunarmannahelgi, have a wonderful weekend!