A wee Advent story about some traditions and a tree

A wee Advent story about some traditions and a tree

Godkendt lokal

As some of you may be aware, the Christmas season is a pretty big deal here in Iceland. Advent (the four weeks leading up to Christmas) is definitely one of the most magical times of year here, fully qualified to rival the season of the midnight sun.

It's the time when coloured lights decorate just about every window, and practically every other tree is wrapped in them. There are concerts everywhere, almost everyone goes to at least one Christmas buffet (usually with their workplace), and families uphold their Yule traditions, be it making laufabrauð, or baking gingerbread cookies, or chopping their own Christmas tree, or making their own cards, or whatever.

A wee Advent story about some traditions and a treeThe Advent is unofficially kicked off with the lighting of the big Christmas tree on Austurvöllur square, in the old city centre of Reykjavík. The lighting ceremony involves a visit from the Yule Lads, their mother Grýla, and other savoury creatures. The big tree is presented as a gift each year to the people of Reykjavík from the people of Oslo.

In 2015 however a decision was made (in Norway) to stop this tradition, which has been going on for over fifty years. The reasoning, as I recall, was that the Icelanders had their own big Christmas trees now (global warming, Hallelujah!) so the transport over here with the resultant greenhouse gas emissions just didn’t make sense.

This apparently hurt the feelings of many an Icelander, and there was a bit of a public outcry (totally cringe-worthy in my opinion; I mean, you don’t sulk when someone decides to stop giving you presents, unless you’re five years old, which maybe the mainstream Icelandic consciousness is ... but I digress) with the result that the Oslo people reconsidered and did, in fact, send a tree that year.

But lo! The very day that the lights were to be ceremoniously lit, a wicked storm blew in and actually snapped the Oslo Christmas tree in two!!! (Or, well, maybe not in two, but took a sizeable chunk off the top at least.)

The result? The mayor of Reykjavík and the Norwegian ambassador to Iceland made a trek up to Heiðmörk, on the outskirts of town, where they found a one-hundred-percent homegrown Icelandic tree, chopped it down, and a week after the planned lighting of the Oslo tree (of course the previous week’s lighting ceremony was cancelled on account of the storm and everything) that very Icelandic Christmas tree was ceremoniously lit in Austurvöllur square.

And that, my friends, is what you call a Message from Divine Providence.

Want to know more about Icelandic traditions and culture? Check out The Little Book of the Icelanders and The Little Book of the Icelanders in the Old Days. Or follow Alda on Facebook or Twitter

Photo visir.is/GVA

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