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Icelandic National Day

Icelandic National Day (Icelandic: Þjóðhátíðardagurinn, the day of the nation’s celebration) is an annual holiday in Iceland which commemorates the foundation of The Republic of Iceland on 17 June 1944. This date also marks the end of Iceland’s centuries old ties with Denmark.[1] The date was chosen to coincide with the birthday of Jón Sigurðsson, a major figure of Icelandic culture and the leader of the 19th century Icelandic independence movement.[2]

The formation of the republic was based on a clause in the 1918 Act of Union with Denmark, which allowed for a revision in 1943, as well as the results of the 1944 plebiscite.

German occupation of Denmark meant that the revision of the Act of Union could not take place in 1943. But the referendum on abolishing the monarchy went ahead in 1944 while Denmark was still occupied by Germany and was overwhelmingly approved. At the time, the US Military had taken over the defence of Iceland at Iceland’s invitation, after being occupied by Britain in 1940. Although saddened by the results of the plebiscite, King Christian X sent a letter on 17 June 1944 congratulating Icelanders on the establishment of a republic.

Abolishing the monarchy resulted in little change to the Icelandic constitution, “The King” was merely changed to “The President”. Icelanders celebrated the severing of all formal ties with Denmark after centuries of sometimes difficult Danish rule. Iceland’s national day was chosen as the birthday of Jón Sigurðsson who pioneered the early independence movement. Mr. Sveinn Björnsson became the first President of Iceland.