What to do, what to do ... If the plethora of activities, art galleries, museums, restaurants, sports venues and nightclubs has not kept you busy enough, odds are that Iceland will be celebrating something special when you pay your visit. The nation enjoys doing everything from eating creamcakes to celebrating the first day of summer in April, so there’s always something you’ll enjoy. The listings below are only a sampler of the country’s major events. Small towns and villages celebrate music festivals, local artists, fishermen’s days and other events, so check the local tourist information office when you arrive.

YEAR ROUND

Theater - Soak up local culture at one of the many theaters in Iceland. Performances this year promise to be four-star. You can catch plays at the National Theater in Reykjavik, or at various smaller venues. Performances are usually in Icelandic. For further information, visit www.culture.is

The Reykjavik City Theater is the home of the Iceland Dance Company, which performs each year. The National Theater: Tel: (+354) 551-1200, www.leikhusid.is, midasala@leikhusid.is
The Reykjavik City Theater: Tel: (+354) 568-5500, www.borgarleikhus.is, midasala@borgarleikhus.is.
The Theater of Akureyri: Tel: (+354) 462 5073, www.leikfelag.is, la@leikfelag.is
Theater Idno, Reykjavik: Tel: (+354) 562 9700, www.idno.is, idno@xnet.is Idno stages plays in English during the summer.

Symphony – The Icelandic Symphony orchestra will have a new home in 2010, as a stunning concert hall is being constructed in the Reykjavik harbor. For the time being, concerts are held at the University Auditorium, featuring performances by Icelandic and international artists. Tel: (+354) 562-2255, www.sinfonia.is, sinfonia@sinfonia.is.

Opera
- Iceland has its own opera company performing in the northernmost Opera House in the world. Performances run throughout the winter. The Icelandic Opera: Tel: (+354) 511-4200, www.opera.is, midasala@opera.is . May 2011 sees the opening of Harpa Concert and Conference Centre which will become the new home of the Iceandic Opera: www.harpa.is .

WINTER

Christmas Season (December)
When the days are short, beloved folklore adds to the mystique and glories of Christmas in Iceland, so while American children dream of sugarplums and Santa Claus, little ones in Iceland are tantalized by visions of Gully Gawk, Window Peeper, Bowl Licker, Pot Scraper, Door Slammer - among others. These are the Yuletide Lads, elf-like spirits who live in the mountains until December 12, when - one by one - they descend to the villages to create mischief as Icelandic families prepare for the holiday festivities. Each day, one of thirteen Lads makes an appearance and stays for thirteen days, leaving a little gift in the shoes of children who leave them on windowsills for that purpose. They’re all gone by January 6. In spite of the havoc they seem to create, they are cherished by Icelanders young and old, who anxiously anticipate their arrival and see them off with some sadness - reassured that they will return again next year. Another Christmas tradition in Iceland is when people make up for the short days and long nights by lighting up the community with thousands of Christmas lights. For as far as the eye can see twinkling lights illuminate the scenery into a winter wonderland. Christmas itself is celebrated on the evening of December 24, when families everywhere dress in finest clothes and on the dot of 6pm, sit down to a delicious Christmas feast, often of lamb. Presents are opened after dinner. In preparation for the big event, December 23, known as Thorlaksmessa, is also an important day. The stores stay open until midnight for the last minute shoppers, while many families gather together to decorate their Christmas tree and clean the home for the big day.

New Year’s Eve (December 31)

New Year’s Eve is always a special celebration in Iceland when the entire nation goes all out with community bonfires, house parties, club outings, and fireworks that fill the night sky. Supper is still a family event, and the groups stay together until the 360-degree fireworks show begins just before midnight. After that, the parties really get going.

Thorrablot (mid-January to mid-February)
The ancient Viking month of Thor, commemorating the Norse god of Thunder, falls between January and February each year. The Vikings celebrated this mid-winter month with plenty of dancing, singing, drinking and merriment, as well as consuming as much of their traditional food as possible. They ate slatur, and Icelandic version of haggis, as well as half-boiled lamb’s heads called svid, seal flippers, rotten shark, and even pickled ram’s testicles. Modern day Icelanders may now favor pizza and coke, but during the month of Thor, the traditional delicacies can once again be found on grocery store shelves, and the majority of the nation partakes at least once in an evening of the special cuisine. Restaurants usually offer a Thorrablot menu during this time (don’t worry, they also have the regular meals!), and those tourists who want to try something different are welcome to come along. Don’t forget to wash it all down with a shot of the Icelandic national drink, brennivin, fondly known as “black death”.

Bolludagur or "Buns Day" (Two days before Lent; Usually in February or March)

Iceland celebrates two holidays in February that seem to revolve simply around the consumption of delicious foods with guiltless abandonment. On Bolludagur or "Buns Day", homes, restaurants and bakeries overflow with delicately made cream puffs or "buns". These buns come in all different shapes and sizes, filled with cream, jam, and sometimes drizzled in chocolate. Children especially love Bun Day because they get to wake up early and try to catch their parents still in bed. If they do, they "beat" them out of bed with their individually made Bolluvondur or "Bun Wands," which are colorfully decorated with strips of paper and gleaming ribbon. The parents are then obligated to give their children one cream puff for every "blow" received.

prengidagur or "Bursting Day" (Shrove Tuesday, the day before Lent)

On the second day of eating, Shrove Tuesday, every Icelandic home and most restaurants flood with the aroma of Saltkjot og baunir or salted-meat and peas, a traditional stew-like meal. The name “Sprengidagur” refers to the idea that the individual feasts on this hearty dish to the point of bursting.

"Oskudagur" or Ash Wednesday

Ash Wednesday is celebrated in Iceland with a unique custom for children. Ashes are collected into small bags known as "Oskupokar". As a prank, these bags are secretly pinned onto people’s clothing. The day is also marked with children singing and parading around the streets and shops, begging for treats. It’s similar to Hallowe’en, but children don’t need to wear costumes and they ask businesses rather than homes for candy.

Winter Lights Festival (Late Febrary)

Dedicated to the theme of light and energy, and really just to cheer everyone up after a long dark winter, the Winter Lights Festival is an exciting public festival centered around Laugardalur park in Reykjavik. www.visitreykjavik.is

Beer Day (March 1)
This celebrated event began on March 1st, 1989 when a 75-year long prohibition of beer was lifted. Highly festive celebrations are held at pubs, restaurants, and clubs all around Reykjavik.

Iceland Food & Fun Festival (March 9-13)
This week long festival of special promotions at restaurants and bars throughout Reykjavik brings to light the achievements of chefs and brew masters, as well as manufacturers of Icelandic gourmet products such as caviar, shrimp, lamb and cheese. Internationally renowned chefs visit the capital and are paired with a restaurant to create a special menu for the week. Make sure to reserve a table well in advanced as seats sell out quickly! www.foodandfun.is

Imagine Peace Tower (March 19–26)
A work of art by Yoko Ono dedicated to the memory of John Lennon. A wishing well, from which a strong and tall tower of light emerges. In the Imagine Peace Tower will shine during the week of spring Equinox as well as between Lennon's birthday and the day of his death. www.imaginereykjavik.com

DesignMarch (March 24-27)
DesignMarch is a four day design festival in Reykjavik featuring an impressive program of events, lectures and exhibitions reflecting the diversity of Icelandic design and architecture. Highlighting design in times of change, this year’s event hosts leading designers and lecturers to the festival. For a full program of events: www.icelanddesign.is

The Icelandic Horse Festival in Reykjavik (March 26 - April 2)
The programme will consist of various events ranging from breeding shows to saddle making. The events will take place at breeding ranches and horse club locations in and around Reykajvík. The final day there will be a celebration in Reykjavik Zoo and Family Park where a selection of the best horses and everything related to the Icelandic horse will be introduced. www.icelandichorsefestival.is

Reykjavik Fashion Festival (March 31–April 3)
The cream of Icelandic fashion talent join forces with bright sparks on the music scene for an unforgettable festival of creativity. www.rff.is


SPRING

Easter (April 22-25)
At Eastertime in Iceland those with a sweet tooth are definitely welcome! Children and even grownups are treated with traditional Icelandic chocolate Easter eggs. What is so special about each Easter egg is that it is more than just a hollowed out piece of chocolate. The egg, which comes in up to 10 sizes, is stuffed with yummy candy and a slice of Icelandic wit and wisdom. This fortune-cookie-like wisdom, or Malshatt, comes in the form of some 400 proverbs based on folklore, history and homilies. On Easter Sunday the traditional meal of roasted Icelandic lamb is served with rhubarb jelly and sugar-browned potatoes. Easter Monday is also an official holiday in Iceland commonly celebrated by families getting together for outdoor fun and relaxation. The Thursday and Friday before Easter are also official holidays.

First Day of Summer (April 21)

Celebration with parades, sporting events and organized entertainment, are held in various locales around Iceland on the first day of summer. After a long winter, it’s nice to have summer come early. Iceland is the only country in the world which celebrates the arrival of summer. Traditionally, the weather actually seems to become colder for a few days after the first of summer. Perhaps it is Nature’s way of the reminding the country who is still the boss. www.visitreykjavik.is

Puffin Season (May)
Bird watchers and nature lovers alike flock every spring to the Westman Islands (20 miles south of Iceland) to view the return of the puffin from its long winter at sea. During this time, millions of puffins return to nest with their life-mates, and lay eggs.

Reykjavik Arts Festival (May 20 - June 5)

Since 1970, Iceland’s premier cultural festival has been bringing together the best in local and international entertainment. The Reykjavik Art Festival’s program offers a variety of selected exhibitions, concerts, dance, theater and opera performances. Along with its focus on Icelandic culture past and present, the festival hosts many outstanding international artists and performers. www.artfest.is

SUMMER

Festival of the Sea (June 4-5)
This holiday commemorates the important work of fishermen to the culture and economy of Iceland. Festivities include parades, rowing and swimming races, tugs of war, and even sea rescue competitions. This fun filled and light hearted occasion for the whole family always has a lot going on. Small fishing villages throughout Iceland also host their own festivities for this event.

Viking Festival (June 16–19)
The Viking Village in Hafnarfjordur town hosts a Solstice Festival with Viking clothing, instruments, jewlery, crafts, and of course plenty of food and drink. www.fjorukrain.is


Icelandic Independence Day (June 17)
Icelandic Independence Day is June 17. In 1944, Iceland declared full independence from the Danish crown. June 17 was chosen as the official holiday because it was the birthday of Jon Sigurdsson who is regarded as Iceland’s champion to the nationalist cause. Parades and events are held throughout the country, culminating in a spectacular fireworks show. www.visitreykjavik.is

Summer Solstice (June 21)

Gatherings around Reykjavik celebrate the magic of the midnight sun on the longest day of the year.

Landsmot National Horse Show of Iceland (Summer every two years).
The Landsmot horse show, sponsored by Icelandair, is a world-renowned celebration of the Icelandic horse. Superb horses and riders demonstrate their capabilities during a numerous competition and show events. www.landsmot.is

light of the Puffling (August)

A sight not to be missed in August is the flight of the puffling, when millions of baby puffins leave their nests for the very first time to test their wings.

Verslunnarmannahelgi Weekend (Jul 30-August 1)

This is the Icelandic version of Labor Day Weekend, a time when normal urban folk travel in the thousands out to the countryside to spend the weekend in tents and summerhouses. There are numerous events organized throughout the country this weekend, the most famous of which is a huge concert festival on the Westman Islands. If you stay in Reykjavik, you’ll have the bars and restaurants to yourself.

Fiskidagurinn Mikli (Weekend after Verslunnarmannahelgi) 
“Big Fish Day” is a good example of a regional event. Held every year in the tiny village of Dalvik, north of Akureyri, “Big Fish days” are a celebration of sea creatures. Each year, thousands of people descend on this village of 1500 and are served free fish soup and invited to participate in various games and activities.

Reykjavik Gay Pride (August 4-7)
This family friendly weekend shows the nation’s support for the gay and lesbian community in Iceland. There are several fun activities throughout the city, including a lavish parade everybody comes out to see. www.gayice.is

Reykjavik Jazz Festival (August 14–29)
The annual Reykjavik Jazz Festival is an increasingly prestigious event on the international jazz scene. It features many acclaimed international jazz players as well as Iceland’s leading jazz musicians performing at festive venues throughout the capital city. www.reykjavikjazz.is


Reykjavik Marathon (August 20)
The Reykjavik Marathon is an annual event held every August on Culture Day. This international event involves thousands of participants from Iceland and abroad. Participants can run a full or half marathon, or 3, 5 or 10 kilometer races. There is also an informal family race. www.marathon.is

Menningarnott “Reykjavik Culture Night” (August 20)

On this enchanted day museums, galleries, churches, cafes, restaurants, stores and other establishments in downtown Reykjavik stay open into the night and present a variety of exhibitions, concerts, performances, theater and other cultural events. Choice selections of food and drink are served, and the evening is concluded with a fireworks display. www.menningarnott.is

FALL

Rettir or Sheep and Horse Round-Up (September)
September harkens the arrival of one of the most popular events in Iceland, the Sheep ("Rettir" in Icelandic) and Horse Round Up. In an entertaining and interesting process that can take up to a week, farmers set off on horseback to gather their sheep and horses that have spent the summer grazing in the highlands. With the advent of the fall season, the sheep and horses are herded into pens where they are identified and sorted. This most festive Icelandic occasion warrants a country holiday commemorating a major event on the farming calendar. Don’t be sheepish. Join in this lively community celebration in September, which is "shear" to make you smile.

Reykjavik Film Festival (Sep 23 - Oct 3)
RIFF’s reputation has spread considerably and the number of international guests has multiplied making the festival one of the best-kept secrets of the film festival circuit. www.filmfest.is

Imagine Peace Tower (October 9–December 8)
A work of art by Yoko Ono dedicated to the memory of John Lennon. A wishing well, from which a strong and tall tower of light emerges. Every year the Imagine Peace Tower emerges between Lennon's birthday and the day of his death. www.imaginereykjavik.com


Iceland Airwaves Music Festival (October 13-17)
Iceland Airwaves, a festival garnering increasing international attention, has rocked Reykjavik every October since 1999. Thousands of fans from around the globe show up to groove to cutting-edge tunes by alternative artists from both sides of the Atlantic.

Reykjavik Jazz Festival (Aug 14-29)
The Reykjavik Jazz Festival is also held every fall with a stellar line-up of jazz artists from all over the world covering the various genre of the jazz sphere. Visit www.jazz.is for the latest information.