Monday, June 15, 2009

Icelandic National Day

Icelandic National Day (Icelandic: Þjóðhátíðardagurinn, the day of the nation's celebration), June 17, 1944, is a holiday in Iceland and celebrated as the day that The Republic of Iceland (Lýðveldið Ísland) was formed, becoming independent from the Danish Monarchy. The date of 17 June was chosen because it is the birthday of Jón Sigurðsson, a major figure of Icelandic culture and the leader of the 19th century Icelandic independence movement.
June 17, was chosen as Iceland's National Holiday to recognize Jón's efforts toward Icelandic independence. He is often referred to as President ("Jón forseti") by Icelanders. The main reason for this is that since 1851 he served as President of the Copenhagen Department of Hið íslenska bókmenntafélag (the Icelandic Literature Society). He was also the president of Althing several times, for the first time in 1849. He is currently pictured on Iceland's 500 kroner bill, and has been honored on Icelandic postage stamps on the centenaries of his birth and death, the 150th anniversary of his birth, and on the creation of the Republic of Iceland (on his 133rd birthday).
Jón Sigurðsson was born 17 June 1811 at Hrafnseyri, near Arnarfjörður in the Westfjords area of Iceland; he was the son of pastor, Sigurður Jónsson and Thordis Jonsdottir. He moved to Copenhagen, Denmark, in 1833 to study grammar and history at the university. He married Ingibjorg Jonsdottir, born 9 October 1804.
Jón Sigurðsson took part in discussions that led to the Danish king Christian IX’s restoration of the old Icelandic Althing (parliament) as an advisory body in 1843. Jón was elected to that body for its first session in 1845, later becoming its speaker. As a leader of the Patriotic Party, Jón successfully negotiated for Iceland’s freedom of trade in1854; he also led in the modernization of Iceland’s agriculture and fishing techniques. Always pressing Denmark for self-government, he undoubtedly influenced the granting by Denmark in 1874 of a constitution that provided for Iceland’s control of its finances and for legislative power shared with the Danish crown.

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