Arts & Culture

Celebrate the Ólavsøka Festival in the Faroe Islands

Many places have their own special day – a national day, flag day or independence day. In the Faroe Islands, that day is the 29th of July.

This annual celebration is a special holiday for Faroese citizens as well as a great way for visitors to get to know the folklore of the country. Beautiful Torshaven, the capital, prepares itself for the influx of people arriving for the festivities.

So what is Ólavsøka? Translated as Saint Olaf’s Day, the festival is a national holiday in the Faroe Islands. There are plenty of activities such as concerts, parades, football matches, boat race, chain dancing, and chorus singing (especially the Midnight Song). Historically, the festival memorialises the death of King Olafduring a battle in Norway in 1030. It’s also a celebration of the arrival of Christianity to Norway and the Faroe Islands. As with many national days, the locals don traditional costumes. You will see them everywhere, as all of the members of Faroese families have the proper dress or suit for the Ólavsøka. We especially love the small black and red striped hat for babies!

Women wear dark cloaks in case of rain (a high possibility!), resembling characters out of Lord of the Rings; absolutely beautiful. The traditional clothes of the Faroe Islands have silver details, such as buttons for a man’s jacket, or pins for a woman’s blouse.

 

 

The Ólavsøka Festival presents a picture of the Faroese culture, highlighting a sense of togetherness. While walking along Torshavn, you won’t be able to miss picturesque scenes of people warmly greeting each other or friends meeting the new baby of a young couple.

At the Saint Olaf Festival, you are warmly invited to attend and take part in the dance chains in the town square. Don’t be shy; follow the steps and get into the spirit of the party! There are also art exhibitions and workshops (e.g. learn how to knit traditional garments) that showcase Faroese culture. In the Faroes Islands, knitting is an integral part of the culture. Thanks to rainy days and long hours of darkness, there’s plenty of need for warm clothes and time to become an expert at this handicraft.

The Ólavsøka includes great examples of local music. Listen to the beautiful voice of Eivør and get inspired by her interpretation of traditional Faroese music.

When taking part in the Ólavsøka festival, find a way to cherish the moment with the Faroese inhabitants; go to church for a classical concert, watch the boat race, enjoy a beer with a buddy, buy a traditional jumper, listen the beautiful Midnáttarsangur (midnight song) on the street or just learn how to pronounce Góða Ólavsøku! and say it freely, with gusto!

 

Find a full program of events for the Ólavsøka.

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Claudia Domenici

Claudia is passionate about visual and social media communication. She lives in Copenhagen and is originally from Italy. You can find her work at @rimbaudia on Instagram and @amirbar on Twitter.