Tag Archives: christmas

A VERY SPECIAL COVID CHRISTMAS IN SVALBARD: Outdoor Mass w/ 10 residents reading/singing in their native languages and a Christmas Eve harkening back to old times set the spirit


While a chill has been put on many Christmas celebrations worldwide due to the COVID-19 pandemic, in the world’s northernmost town Priest Siv Limstrand found warmth in venturing outside her closed church and inspiring her world of congregants to speak and sing in tongues.

GLOW IN THE DARK: Months of darkness typically mean black times in Arctic communities, but for many in Longyearbyen it’s a period of socializing, exploring and other types of illumination


One woman says she prepared for her first dark season in Longyearbyen by stockpiling knitting, cooking and other supplies in anticipation of long months of chilly isolation, but how communally embracing the world’s northernmost town is of the many “other” forms of light during the continuous night quickly and inescapably dawned upon her.

“I went to so many activities I didn’t even touch the things I bought to keep myself from getting depressed,” she said. While mostly a blessing that also meant “I feel like I don’t have time for anything because people always want to meet up…(there was) no time for myself.”

BRIGHTER, BUT BIZARRE, HOLIDAY HIGHLIGHTS: Advent in Longyearbyen starts w/ letters, lights, lyrics – and looney laws

An idyllic snowy, yet mild and mostly windless, first Sunday of Advent in the world’s northernmost town was full of traditional celebrations to mark the start of the holiday season – but as with so much this year there were some peculiar and sometimes mystifying differences.

But, in what might be called a gift, not all were sickly and/due to The Curse That Shall Not Be Named (at least near the top of this festive feature).

SIMPLY ENLIGHTENING: A few white bulbs and lots of singing are plenty enough to bring a glow to Longyearbyen residents during the annual Christmas tree lighting ceremony


A spartan strand of plain white lights illuminated a few boughs on what in the 24-hour dark of polar night might pass for a tall bit of shrubbery…and there was much rejoicing. A few moments later a second strand of lights brought a glow revealing the fuller outlines of an evergreen…and there was much rejoicing. Shortly after the third and final set of plain white lights let the townfolk of Longyearbyen know this was as turned on as this year’s official Christmas tree was going to get.

And there was much rejoicing.

“It’s so simple to find satisfaction here,” a woman remarked to a companion, both of whom were wearing reflective vests for the new Svalbard Folk High School that welcomed its first students a few months ago.

Family of foreigners: Svalbard’s international residents share variety of Christmas experiences – with one common element


Julia Paulsen said Christmas isn’t a major holiday in Indonesia since most of the population is Muslim, with only about 10 percent who are Christians. So it’s a day for being with family, with maybe a song or some other moment recognizing the occasion.

When she moved from her homeland to Longyearbyen with her husband Didrik three years ago her first Christmas was considerably more festive.

On dashers! After November roars out like a lion with blizzards, December arrives like a lamb with lots of Christmas activities


In the beginning there was a run in the snow, an “underwater” circus and an organized(?!) snowball fight. And there was evening, and there was more evening —the first day.

Then there was food, a parade of torches, letters to Santa, the lighting of the Christmas tree, an early visit from Santas (yes, plural) and stories. And there was yet even more evening, and there was an unceasing amount of evening —the second day.

God may have created the world in seven busy days, but Svalbard will spend another 23 full of festivities leading up to the supposed birthday of his Son (plus many more afterwards thanks to various traditional post-holiday events and the Russian Orthodox Christmas celebration in Barentsburg on Jan. 7).

Secret Santas: Staff at crucial agencies work largely out of sight keeping Longyearbyen cozy and safe during Christmas


To say Santa and his elf had a very steamy Christmas might get some people heated up – certainly the folks in several homes at Blåmyra are feeling that way this Christmas due to the December duo.

Keep the lights on: If Santa could bring Longyearbyen one thing for Christmas? Opening mines, safe housing top wish list


It was a perfect symbolism for Christmas in Longyearbyen in 2017 – the locals dancing and singing as they circled the town’s official tree whose lights were dark (a seemingly laugh-it-off error that turned out to be deliberate sabotage). Because the top item on the wish list of many locals comes to down to one thing: keeping the lights going at something significant where they’re being turned off.

ROAST BEAST: The Grinch tried his tyranny in Longyearbyen this year. It didn’t go well. (UPDATE: Just wow…it really was sabotage)


Skipping past his tiny heart and large theft, including sabotaging the town’s Christmas tree (FOR REAL, it turns out – see update at end)…

Then he shook! What he saw was a shocking surprise!

Every Who down in Whoville, the tall and the small,
Was singing! Without any lights at all!

House of Crumbs: Gingerbread recreation of Longyearbyen goes on diet, but still provides plenty of energy


It’s built exactly to scale, can withstand huffing and puffing, and even has the potential to provide local residents plenty of energy.