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The Old Norse Calendar

Updated: Jan 1, 2022

As we begin the New Year from our modern calendar, this is a good time to look back at our Icelandic heritage and the calendar used by our ancestors, which was the Old Norse calendar. This is just the basics and for those who want more in-depth information, see the sources at the bottom of this post.

According to the old calendar, the year is made up of Winter and Summer. People would count their birthdays by how many winters they had survived. The months were further divided according to what was happening at the time of year for weather, farming, and blóts (feasts).

Iceland used the Julian calendar until November of 1700. On Saturday, the 16th of November, the calendar changed to the Gregorian calendar and Sunday was November 28th! I wonder if any twins were born close to midnight on the 16th with one on November 16th and the sibling born at 12:01 am on November 28th?

In the chart below, you will see the names of the week. In the first column are names used in Scandinavia from the very olden days. In Iceland, the first bishop at Hólar, Jón ‘helgi’ Ögmundsson, IR# I137537, served as bishop from 1106. He changed the names of the week, so they were not named after the pagan gods. The church did not abolish the feasts but wanted to show people a Christian meaning to these popular festivals. Bishop Jón was deemed a saint in 1200.

There are many feasts and holidays in Iceland. Through the year, we will write about as many as possible. We have quite a few about Þórri, Þórrablót, Sólar kaffi, Bun Day, Bursting Day, Ash Wednesday, Seamen´s Day, National Days, Dog Days, St. Þórlakur, Independence Day, Yuletide, Yule Lads, and the New Year but there are many more. Just see the many blog posts on our website.

If you would like to help us to write stories about these special feasts, holidays, customs, heritage, and more, let us know.

In the New Year, Icelanders continue the Yule celebrations along with feasts, holiday happenings, traditions, and folklore. See this post about New Year and Twelfth Night folklore, feasts, and traditions.

Sources and more in-depth information:

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