Icelanders from across the province celebrated Iceland’s National Day in Markerville Saturday, and witnessed the crowning of their new Fjallkona.
Gwen Mann of Leif Eiriksson Icelandic Club of Calgary received the honour, which translates to ‘maid of the mountain’. In her role, she will act as a representative of Icelandic culture at various events including galas and conventions.
“It’s always a lady who has been very active in the Icelandic community and who holds very high honour and values,” said Brooke Henrikson, manager of Stephan G. Stephansson Icelandic Society (SGSIS) in Markerville.
Mann was accompanied by daughter Sheralyn and granddaughter Audrey as she received the crown. The Fjallkona attire she wore symbolized the beauty of Icelandic landscape and the richness of Icelandic culture.
Mann grew up in rural Saskatchewan, and joined the Leif Eiriksson Icelandic Club in 1994. Doing so allowed her to learn more about Icelandic culture, and eventually visit the country in 1995.
“Making that trip in 1995 and visiting with my relatives there seemed to connect all my Icelandic thoughts,” she said. “Seeing where all my ancestors originated from and hearing more about each person’s individual story was overwhelming.”
Mann’s grandparents immigrated to Canada from Iceland in the early 20th century. Mann eventually came into possession of letters written by her maternal grandmother describing life in Canada to her mother and brother in Iceland.
“I’ve frequently thought how difficult it must have been to leave their love of family and home and sail to North America,” she said. “I didn’t think they wanted to leave, but I felt it was necessary due to the physical and economic conditions of the day.“
They wanted to provide a better future for me and all the other family that followed.”
Through her work on history books, in youth programs and at conventions, Mann said she has learned much about Icelandic dress, food, history and special events.
She acknowledged the hardships faced by her family and ancestors when they came to Canada, but feels she and other Icelandic descendants can now “celebrate our new country, (and also) the country of our origin”.
“May all our lives be blessed with the richness of our heritage,” she said.
Iceland’s National Day is celebrated each year on June 17. It was celebrated in Markerville on Saturday by clubs from Calgary, Edmonton and Markerville, as well as representatives from various Icelandic organizations in North America.