24-07-2012 | Celebrating a 1000 year-old holiday
These days many Faroese people are looking forward to the great Faroese national holiday, ólavsøka, which has been celebrated in the capital, Tórshavn, for almost one thousand years. The celebration is held in honour of the Norwegian King, Olaf II Haraldsson, or St. Olaf, who christened the Faroe Islands and was later killed in the Battle of Stiklestad in the year of 1030.
Ólavsøka, the biggest Faroese national celebration, is taking place this weekend in the Faroe Islands. The 29th of July marks the death of St. Olaf and is the official national holiday of the Faroe Islands. However, the national celebrations begin a few days in advance of the national holiday with cultural events in the capital, Tórshavn, the centre of the holiday festivities.
Ólavsøka itself is celebrated on both the 28th and the 29th of July, which are both nationally designated work holidays for most Faroese people.
Events of all kinds take place in Tórshavn around this time, especially in culture and sports. The main sporting event is the national championship in rowing – the national sport of the Faroe Islands. Teams row in uniquely built Faroese rowing boats, and the national holiday marks the culmination of the rowing season.
Ólavsøka also carries political significance since it marks the commencement of a new parliamentary year in the Faroe Islands. The political celebrations take place on the 29th of July, when politicians, priests and others march to the Faroese parliament after a service in the national cathedral. Inside parliament, the chairman officially opens the new parliamentary session, and the Prime Minister gives an opening address setting out the government's political agenda for the upcoming year.
The 28th and the 29th of July are the most common days of the year for Faroese people to wear the country's magnificent national costume. This creates a special festive atmosphere in this small North Atlantic capital. In addition to attracting thousands of people from all over the Faroe Islands to the capital, ólavsøka is also the time of the year when most expatriots return and many foreign visitors plan their Faroese vacations.
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