Labor Day Celebrations

Photo of Labor Day gathering in Ingólfstorg, May 1, 2013 (via RÚV)

Somehow, we just about missed yet another holiday here in Iceland: May 1, or verkalýðsdagur, which is roughly “working class day,” or International Labor Day. Depending on where you look, it is also called alþjóðlegur baráttudagur verkalýðsins, which means something like “the working class’ international day of struggle.” Whatever you call it, May 1 is a bank holiday in Iceland, celebrated all over the country with parades and demonstrations. According to a book about Icelandic holidays that my landlady lent me, the first May Day celebrations began in Iceland in 1923. The slogan of this year’s celebrations was “Kaupmáttur, atvinna, velferð” or “Purchasing Power, Employment, and Welfare.”

Mark and I had plans to meet our visiting friends in town for lunch, and Mark headed in a little before me, only to be caught on a corner waiting for a 15 minute motorcycle demonstration to make its way—very cautiously and slowly, he says—down Laugarvegur and around the corner. I didn’t happen to catch an motorcycle parades myself, but did catch a bit of a Jónas Sigurðsson (this guy) performance in Ingólfstorg, which was filled with people holding anti-European Union signs (they are frequently very polite: “ESB: Nei, Takk!” or “European Union, No, Thank You!”), gay pride flags, political slogans (there was just an election here, which I didn’t feel well informed enough on to report back to you all about, but it was…surprising) and even a wooden sign that just read “more sun!” with, you guessed it: a large smiling sunshine on it. There were kids in trees, motorcycles parked along the sidewalks, people eating outside at cafes (it is sunny, but still a bit nippy for that, in my opinion) and all very festive.

My camera was out of juice, I figured out too late, but you can take a look at some pictures of the festivities here and here and even watch a minute of the parade—which started at Hlemmur bus station at 1:30 and then made its way to Ingólfstorg with two bands and a lot of regular people just having a good time—here.

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