Mennigarnott: How Iceland celebrates Iceland.
Menningarnott is Iceland’s huge annual cultural celebration, taking place in August each year, when a third of the countries entire population converges into the central core of Reykjavik. The streets in and around downtown are closed, turning the entire city centre into a monstrous block party. Makeshift stages are built with bales of hay, and every other intersection has a DJ booth or musician. Buskers are everywhere, grafitti masters craft murals on walls, artists display their pieces for all to see, and everyone is drinking beer.
It’s not quite noon.
Things gain momentum into the early evening, funky tribal beats can be heard echoing between houses as DJs spin up in bars and on the street; an impromptu break dancing competition pops up in a vacant parkade. People of all ages are enjoying the excitement, parents dancing with drinks in hand while their young children bounce nearby waving glow sticks. Police presence is all but non-existent, and seemingly not required. People are happy, friendly, respectful. Nearly one hundred thousand bodies are running and dancing in the streets, drinks have been flowing since this morning, and people are actually behaving! This kind of thing would never happen back home.
The evening comes to a head with a few of Icelands biggest musical acts taking the main stage down near the waterfront. Unfortunately, aside from Bjork and Of Monsters and Men, I’m clueless to the local music scene, but enjoyed whoever was playing regardless! Glassy-eyed and drunk, the crowd of thousands sways to the music as the massive fireworks display over the harbor brings the night to a climax. The majority of folks make their way home after the big show, while the real troopers head out to the bars. Belonging to the prior group, staggering home around midnight, we see the stages slowly disappearing, and see the city crews already quietly combing the streets for whatever garbage may have been left on the ground. By morning, we’ll not be able to find a shred of evidence that points to a party.
If you’re planning a visit to Iceland later in the summer months, and you’re a fan of a good festival (and who isn’t?), making sure to arrive in time for Menningarnott; You won’t experience anything like it anywhere else.
“There’s no one on the island telling them they’re not good enough, so they just go ahead and sing and paint and write.”Eric Weiner