Erectly challenged: Busy holiday season starts with a banging in the annual tree forest

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In this instance, size definitely matters.

Inserting a very long tree into a very small hole was the task facing two employees this week at Mary-Anns Polarrigg. But trying to erect one of Longyearbyen’s first Christmas trees for lighting this year was thwarted by a lack of friction, as the glassy smooth ice under a thin layer of snow was too slippery to keep their footing.

Making things more awkward, their stumbling performance was captured on film thanks to a crew filming a “docusoap” for the BBC in which the lodge’s owner is one of the stars.

“I hate that TV camera now,” said Stefan Baldursson after one of the many failed attempts.

Eventually he and Adrian Rodriguez recruited a third co-worker, Kinga Roszkowska, but her short stature was no match for the massive woody protuberance. That’s when the threesome decided it was time for a bit of mechanized aid.

By parking a van next to the stand and bracing the tree against it, Baldursson and Rodriguez were able to get a rise out of tree while Roszkowska skillfully guided it toward the cherished hole – finally culminating in a loud and satisfying bang.

“It’s not the easiest thing I’ve done,” Rodriguez said. “It’s not the hardest either.”

Next came some more leisurely afterglow after a short rest, as lights and decorations were hung, finally adding a bit more brightness to a town now in the full dark grip of the polar night.

The lighting of the tree, only a couple hundred meters from what’s supposedly the world’s largest Santa’s mailbox, occurred about a week before holiday events swing in full gear until well into January. Among those occurring in the coming days:

• Holiday treats at Kulturhuset this Saturday and Sunday. Similar buffets and feasts are being frequently hosted by other eateries throughout the season.

• A Christmas market in the Longyearbyen Arts and Crafts Center, on the second floor at Galleri Svalbard beginning at 10 a.m. Nov. 28, featuring works by local residents. There will also be children’s films and activities.

• A “Christmas Mile” race in the center of Longyearbyen at 1 p.m. Nov. 28, beginning outside Svalbardbutikken.

• First Sunday of Advent activities begin with a mass at 11 a.m. Nov. 29 at Svalbard Church. A Christmas feast will be served at Huset at 1 p.m. The traditional torchlight march from Huset to the center of Longyearbyen, with a stop at the base of Mine 2B so children can drop letters off for Santa at his mailbox, begins at 3 p.m. The march will be followed by the lighting of the town Christmas tree and the traditional circular dance, plus an outdoor market, bonfire, stories and music. A children’s story reading will follow at 4:30 p.m. at Longyearbyen Library.

• The annual Telenor holiday concert, at 7:30 p.m. Dec. 3 at Kulturhuset, featuring an instrumental and choral ensemble of 10 visiting musicians.

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