New Year’s celebrates the end of the year and the start of a new one. In many places, this is a time for great celebration. Public parties are held in cities all around the world on New Year’s Eve, where people get together to count down to the New Year at midnight.
Despite the fact that there are no official city-sponsored events that occur on New Year’s Eve in Iceland’s capital of Reykjavik, Icelanders participate in many traditions when it comes to the holiday. From bonfires to a city-wide firework display, the celebration is one that has Reykjavik rated as one of the top places to celebrate the New Year.
From the start of the night until the next morning, most people around Iceland follow the same New Year’s Eve celebration every year.
The evening typically starts off with a reservation in one of Reykjavik's restaurants or a family meal at home. Restaurants remain open on New Year’s Eve with limited hours, and are typically booked weeks to months in advance.
After eating, Icelanders head out to a bonfire where they celebrate the memories of the previous year with friends and family. The bonfires around the area vary in size, and provide a way for families, friends, and neighbors to get together and share this holiday together. A tradition that dates back to the Viking Age, it is said that the bonfires symbolize burning away the past year.
When the show ends, everyone travels back outside to set off fireworks.
The bonfires generally end around 10 PM when everyone makes their way inside to watch the annual programming of Áramótaskaup. Áramótaskaup is a comedy TV show broadcasted every year to mock the major news headlines of the passing year. When the show ends, Icelanders head outside to set off their firework displays.
While fireworks are banned in Iceland throughout the year, the ban is lifted for the last week of December. People set off fireworks from December 28th until January 4th, with the most being set off around the start of the New Year. Nearly the entire population participates in setting off fireworks, lighting up the sky of Reykjavik. Fireworks can be seen in every direction in Reykjavik until around 1 AM when the clubs and pubs open up and citizens continue to ring in the New Year by partying until the morning.
Some Icelanders choose to spend their nights at house-parties, but most head into Reykjavik to take part in Iceland’s “biggest party of the year” in the clubs and pubs downtown. The New Year’s celebration does not usually taper off until the next morning when everyone gives up the partying for a little sleep.