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!


Longyearbyen residents perform a traditional circular dance around the town’s Christmas tree after several attempts to light it during the first Sunday of Advent failed. Photo by Mark Sabbatini / Icepeople.

And he puzzled and puzzled, till his puzzler was sore.

Then the Grinch thought of something he hadn’t before!

“Maybe Christmas,” he thought, “doesn’t come from a store.”

“Maybe Christmas, perhaps, means a little bit…wait! What’s that coming from the store?”

It was Anne Lise Sandvik carrying two large extension cables, coming to the rescue (because of course she was)!

And what happened then? Well…in Whoville they say,

That the Grinch’s small heart was no match for Anne Lise that day!



Youths listen to Christmas carols shortly before the scheduled lighting of the town Christmas tree Sunday. Photo by Mark Sabbatini / Icepeople.

Editor’s note: This is my ninth tree-lighting ceremony in Longyearbyen and, while not matching the weirdness of when locals danced around a Charlie Brown special the nationwide media would mock as the most pathetic ever, it had its moments. It was an obvious laugh-and-shrug situation when the lights didn’t come on, and of course folks were going to sing and dance anyhow (and the conditions were ideal…heavy snow, no wind and temperatures just below zero).

But as things were starting to break up and I walked into Svalbardbutikken figuring I’d grab a few things before a final check of what was happening, I ran into Anne Lise Sandvik rushing out with two large coiled extension cables muttering something about an emergency. This is a nearly 70-year-old woman who, like, you’d think would be front and center trying to keep the festive spirit going. But no, she was doing the heavy lifting nobody else did because, as I wrote above, of course she was. (Those familiar with my history with her know she’s done a massive amount to help me/Icepeople as well as the community as a whole).

Anyhow, a short time later the lights were lit.

Which means The Grinch’s heart is still probably two sizes too small. But I’m guessing everyone here is cool with it.

UPDATE 11 A.M. MONDAY: Just wow…it actually was a real case of sabotage. According to a statement posted on the city government’s website:

“While troubleshooting it was discovered that someone has crawled under the Christmas tree and opened the protection covering the power plug and filled it with snow before plugging it back into the power plug again. This in turn meant the fuse was disconnected and impossible to light. The error was discovered and corrected, and we hope the lights will work in the future.”


TV cameras prepare to capture the lighting of the Christmas tree in the world’s northernmost town Sunday. Photo by Mark Sabbatini / Icepeople.


A Longyearbyen youth deposits a letter in a special Santa’s mailbox at the base of Mine 2B during a torchlight march Sunday. Photo by Mark Sabbatini / Icepeople.