Because of Iceland’s northerly location, the sun rises very low over the horizon during the winter. The country has many deep, narrow fjords and valleys where the sun does not rise above the mountains for many weeks during the darkest winter days. When the sun finally does show itself for a few minutes, it is a cause for celebration for the inhabitants of those dark valleys and fjords.
These days, the inhabitants of some towns and villages will get together in the gathering hall to celebrate the arrival of sunshine. Others will celebrate individually in their own homes. There is no specific sunshine day, since the sun will appear on different days in different locations. And there should be no cheating: even if you know that the sun has risen above the mountains, there is no celebrating until the weather actually allows it to be seen! This tradition is widespread in Iceland, especially in the east and west fjords, but also in some fjords and valleys in the north.
The Sun Coffee is traditionally served with pancakes, cream cake and any other cake you want! (This includes just about anything from the Cakes, pancakes and cookies page). Many will make caraway coffee for this occasion.
Sunshine day is also a cause for celebration and remembrance among those who have moved away from the fjords and valleys, usually to Reykjavík. Many of these people have formed clubs that are open to anyone coming from the “old place”. They will pick a day close to the time when they know the sun will appear in the old place. A number of volunteers will each bring one cake, or a pile of pancakes or a plate of flat bread with hangikjöt, and they will have a feast with the cakes and drink freshly brewed sun coffee. Sometimes there will be entertainment.
I don’t know when this sunny tradition started, but it is clearly a modern version of the ancient midwinter festivals, like Yule and Þorrablót. People look up to the skies and thank God that the sun is back and another winter will soon draw to an end.