Ólavsøka is held on 29 July and it is the National Day of the Faroe Islands.
Ólavsøka’s literal meaning is "Saint Olaf's Wake" (vigilia sancti Olavi in Latin). Ólavsøka is a celebration of the Norwegian king Olaf Haraldsson II (Ólavur Halgi in Faroese), who died in the battle at Stiklestad Norway in 1030. After his death, King Olaf was canonised and became the patron saint of Norway. His death is thought to have contributed to the subsequent Christianisation of Norway, and thus also the Faroe Islands. In the Middle Ages the Faroe Islands were part of the Kingdom of Norway and the tradition of Olsok (as it is called in Norwegian) has lasted on the Faroe Islands, and is today recognised as the National Day and Festival of Faroe Islands.
Ólavsøka is a two-day celebration through 28 and 29 of July and many Faroese people crowd into the capital Tórshavn, were Ólavsøka is celebrated. People stroll up and down the streets of Tórshavn, many dressed in the colourful national Faroese dress, greeting friends and acquaintances and partaking in jovial celebrations. The salute for Ólavsøka in Faroese is Góða Ólavsøku!(Good Olaf's Wake!).
The opening of Ólavsøka begins with a procession of athletes from local clubs, Tórshavn city council members, a brass band and horse riders. They walk through the city, down to the town square and end at Tinghúsvøllurin (the House of Parliament Field), were an appointed speaker will give the annual speech that officially opens the Ólavsøka.
The festival features many cultural highlights such as traditional Faroese chain dancing and ballad singing, concerts and art exhibitions. The chain dance is for everyone; normally it is held in Sjónleikarhúsið, which is a theatre in Tórshavn. Restaurants are open late, giving you a chance to try both traditional Faroese dishes and foreign food. The National sport of the Faroe Islands is sea rowing and the national rowing competition finals are held on Ólavsøka, becoming one of the highlights in Faroese sports.
Ólavsøka also marks the annual opening of the Faroese parliament Løgtingið, as it has done for the past 900 years, when parliament is officially in session again after the summer holidays.
The opening of the Løgting starts at 11 in the morning of July 29, where the members of Parliament, Government Ministers, the priests of the National Church of Faroe Islands and other public officials will walk in procession to the Cathedral of Tórshavn where a service is held. After the service the procession walks to the House of Parliament were there are choral and musical performances
At the formal opening of Parliament the Prime Minister (Løgmaður) will give his annual speech and address to the Parliament and the Faroese Nation.
The celebrations culminate in a grand finale at midnight on 29 July at the Midnáttarsangurin, (translated as Midnight Song), when a large crowd gathers in the town square to sing old and new Faroese songs and ballads and to dance the traditional Faroese chain dance.
For information about the program for the Ólavsøka contact Visit Tórshavn.