18 Ólavsøka, the National Day of the Faroe Islands

Ólavsøka, the National Day of the Faroe Islands

Ólavsøka is the National Day of the Faroe Islands. It literally means “Saint Olaf’s Wake”.

It’s a celebration of the Norwegian king Olaf Haraldsson II, who died in the battle in Norway in 1030 (Faroes were part of the Kingdom of Norway in the Middle Ages). His death is thought to have contributed to the subsequent Christianisation of Norway and, thus, also the Faroe Islands.

Ólavsøka is a two-day celebration through the 28th and 29th of July, and many Faroese people crowd into the capital, Tórshavn, where Ólavsøka is celebrated. People stroll up and down the streets of Tórshavn, many dressed in the colourful national Faroese dress, greeting friends and acquaintances and partaking in jovial celebrations. The salute for Ólavsøka in Faroese is Góða Ólavsøku! (Good Olaf’s Wake!).

The festival features many cultural highlights, such as traditional Faroese chain dancing and ballad singing, concerts and art exhibitions. The national sport of the Faroe Islands is sea rowing, and the national rowing competition finals are held on Ólavsøka, becoming one of the highlights in Faroese sports.

Ólavsøka also marks the annual opening of the Faroese parliament Løgtingið, as it has done for the past 900 years when parliament is officially in session again after the summer holidays.

The celebrations culminate in a grand finale at midnight on 29 July at the Midnáttarsangurin (translated as Midnight Song), when a large crowd gathers in the town square to sing old and new Faroese songs and ballads and to dance the traditional Faroese chain dance. [Source: faroeislands.fo]

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