Góða Ólavsøku!! Here comes the national holiday of the Faroe Islands

Today and tomorrow the annual Ólavsøku-celebrations take place in Tórshavn, the capital city of the Faroe Islands.

Today is Ólavsøkuaftan (Ólavsøku Eve), and tomorrow is Ólavsøkudagur (Ólavsøku Day).

Ólavsøka is the biggest summer festival in the Faroe Islands, and by most Faroese considered as the national holiday of the country.

Ólavsøka (Saint Olaf’ Day) is celebrated for several days, but the day itself is on July 29.

Ólavsøka’s literal meaning is “Saint Olaf’s Wake” (vigilia sancti Olavi  in Latin). Ólavsøka is a celebration of the Norwegian king Olaf Haraldsson II (Ólavur Halgi  in Faroese), who died in the battle at Stiklestad Norway in 1030. After his death, King Olaf was canonised and became the patron saint of Norway. His death is thought to have contributed to the subsequent Christianisation of Norway, and thus also the Faroe Islands. In the Middle Ages the Faroe Islands were part of the Kingdom of Norway and the tradition of Olsok (as it is called in Norwegian) has lasted on the Faroe Islands, and is today recognised as the National Day and Festival of Faroe Islands.

Like several other Faroese holidays, the vøka begins the evening before, so Ólavsøka always starts on July 28 with an opening ceremony. Some events start even before that; for instance, there has been a Ólavsøku Concert (and, in latter years, a Pride Parade) held on 27 July for several years.

During Ólavsøka many Faroese people crowd into the capital Tórshavn, were 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 festival features many cultural highlights such as traditional Faroese chain dancing and ballad singing, concerts, art exhibitions and sports events (including the national rowing competition finals).

The salute for Ólavsøka in Faroese is Góða Ólavsøku! (Good Olaf’s Wake!).

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 opening of the Løgting starts at 11 in the morning of July 29, where the members of Parliament, Government Ministers, the priests of the National Church of Faroe Islands and other public officials will walk in procession to the Cathedral of Tórshavn where a service is held. After the service the procession walks to the House of Parliament were there are choral and musical performances

At the formal opening of Parliament the Prime Minister (Løgmaður) will give his annual speech and address to the Parliament and the Faroese Nation.

Author: Jens Hákun Leo

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