Alison MacNeil

Alison is a musician, writer and artist from Canada. She's lived in Reykjavik since 1999. 

4 minute read 06 Jan 2017

Visiting the brenna in January

One of the most established traditions of the Icelandic holiday season is the New Year’s brenna, a bonfire with music where the locals gather together to celebrate the start of a new year.

The fires are lit at 8:30PM on New Year’s Eve in between when people have their dinners and when they gather in front of the television to watch the news round-up and annual news lampoon program, the áramótaskaup.

However, if you missed the bonfires at New Year’s Eve, then you get a second chance to watch the flames rise on the last day of Christmas, January 6th, when the last of the Yule Lads, Kertasníkir, has gone back up onto the mountain. It is anyone’s guess what he’s been doing hanging around in town since the 24th of December. Eating people’s candles if the legend is to be believed. Or people’s children, if you go for the older (considerably more hardcore) folkloric belief.

Usually the fires are accompanied by a fireworks display and while people don’t put quite the same effort into the explosives as they do on New Year’s Eve, it is still quite a lot of fun.

The bonfires can be found all around Reykjavík and the surrounding areas with large and small fires depending on your particular pyro needs. The one by Ægissíða, in the west of Reykjavík, is particularly nice with singing and other activities starting at 15:45 at the Melaskóli elementary school.

For large bonfires:

  • Ægissíða, west Reykjavík
  • Geirsnef, Elliðaárdalur
  • Fylkir bonfire at Rauðavatn lake

For the smaller fires:

  • Skerjafjörður opposite Skildinganes 48-52
  • Laugarásvegur
  • Suðurhlíðar below the Fossvogur churchyard
  • Suðurfell, Breiðholt

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