Imagine a bonfire 15 metres tall. Imagine 300 people crowded in front of it, singing songs and lighting flares and sparklers oblivious to the sparks raining from above. Imagine snow on the ground and fireworks going off all around you as impatient locals can’t wait for midnight. This is New Years Eve in Reykjavik.
To say that Icelanders enjoy fireworks would be a gross understatement, so when New Years rolls around and fireworks are legal to buy (and let off), Icelanders quite literally get all fired up.
As we arrived into Reykjavik in the late afternoon of New Years Eve, fireworks were already going off all around town. As the day darkened, more and more people lost their patience and added to the growing symphony of bangs, whistles and cracks.
After dinner families all gather around their local bonfire which has been a tradition for hundreds of years. We joined in a local bonfire which was easily the largest fire I’ve ever seen. Walking through through the trees we though someone’s entire house must have been lit up!
Icelandic music was playing and most people sang along with gusto. All around, fireworks were let off as people couldn’t wait to try out their new purchases. As the bonfire burned low, a fireworks display exploded above us as a teaser for the main event at midnight.
We were taken to a rooftop viewing point to view the main fireworks and ring in the New Year. As midnight approached, we could see more and more fireworks being let off all around us. and it was hard to believe this wasn’t the main event. When the clock finally struck 2014, the fireworks doubled in intensity, and it was hard to know where to look – were ringed on all sides by deafening displays of colour and fire.
The intensity of the midnight fireworks lasted for a full 45 minutes with fireworks being let off less than 50 metres away from us and locals were still letting off fireworks at 7am the next morning. And the following evening.
After midnight and most people have exhausted their stockpile, the main drag in Reykjavik is full of revellers jamming into all the bars determined to carry on the festivities. As we walked down the street, one local greeted us with “Where else but Iceland will you party with your Mum on New Year’s Eve??” as his mother joined in the passing parade.
If you find yourself in Iceland for NYE, dress warmly, get some sparklers, find a bonfire and party like a local. If you’re brave enough you can let off your own fireworks but whatever you do, don’t forget the earplugs.