The first iteration of the so called Icelandic Language Day (known to locals as “Dagur Íslenskrar tungu”) dates back to 1996 and has been ongoing since.
The date of November 16 was chosen to coincide with the birthday of renowned poet Jónas Hallgrímsson (who tragically died from blood poisoning after breaking his leg when he fell down some stairs – at age 37!). In keeping with tradition, there are events in libraries and schools celebrating the language and the writer on this day.
Jónas Hallgrímsson is featured on the 10,000 ISK bill,
the highest and most recent currency we have printed.
Contrary to what some might think, there’s nothing nationalistic about the day itself though. It’s all done in good spirit to emphasise the language and its various uses, like in literature and poems and such. However, The Minister of Education does awards the special “Jónas Hallgrímsson Award” for the special promotion of the language, to an honoree chosen by a comittee.
Here’s a poem by Jónas, entitled Hell.
I find it all a foolish joke,
falling to hell’s abyss of smoke
to sit there, braised and baking,
among the howling fiends of fire,
so far from God’s sunshiny choir —
it sets my soul to quaking!
There squads of skate-winged demons lurk,
skirling through everlasting murk
where ruddy flames hold revel.
All is fire and ice by turns,
everything freezes or it burns,
the dead souls — and the Devil.
Also, if you happen to be stopping by for a visit, during this season or whenever, we recommend taking a look through a (very aptly named) store called I Don’t speak Icelandic.
I Don’t Speak Icelandic
So for us Icelanders, it’s a day to make use of our great tongue, and of course share it with others.